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Hydropower ‘incompatible’ with Danube salmon conservation

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Speakers at the latest meeting of the European Parliament Recreational Fisheries Forum highlighted the condition of the Danube basin by examining the state of the Danube salmon.
↑ Fisheries experts and MEPs attended the latest meeting of the EFTTA and the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) backed European Parliament Recreational Fisheries Forum.

Hydropower generation and its effects on the ‘King of the Danube’ was a hotly debated issue at the latest meeting of MEPs and fisheries experts in Brussels last week.

The EFTTA and the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) backed European Parliament Recreational Fisheries Forum highlighted the condition of the Danube basin by examining the state of its endemic and iconic species, the Danube salmon.

The experts were critical of the state of the Danube and tributaries all along the river basin, which encompasses Germany, Austria, Slovenia, the Balkans and Romania. All throughout the basin, activities such as agriculture, construction, navigation and – most significantly – hydroelectricity generation, are said to have all seriously impacted the rivers.

The event was chaired by Romanian MEP and President of the Forum, Norica Nicolai. She described Danube salmon as ‘by definition a European fish’ as it spreads over 12 countries – from the Slovenian Alps to the Romanian Danube Delta.

The question of the impact of hydropower dams on the Danube salmon’s habitat was a major source of concern. Dr Steven Weiss, of the University of Graz, Austria, told delegates: “The Danube salmon serves both as an indicator and a symbol for intact river systems. Experience shows that large or dense hydropower development is incompatible with the conservation of Danube salmon.”

Anglers across Europe are working on several restoration projects along the Danube. They are also asking for the protection of the remaining intact natural habitats, such as the Slovenian rivers where the fish spawn very successfully.

MEPs and participants concluded that a better implementation of both the existing Water Framework Directive and Habitats Directive rules were needed. “The birds are much more protected than the fish – they even have their own EU Directive,” said Fred Bloot, President of the EAA. “However, fish are just as important. They are an indicator of water quality.

“Preserving key habitats and mitigating the impact of hydropower plants will be decisive for the survival of the King of the Danube.”

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