Conservation of Danube Sturgeons - a challenge or a burden?

Galati, Romania - 28/29/30 October 2019

Objectives of the Conference:

The Conference will address actions needed to conserve the critically endangered population of sturgeons in the entire Danube Basin. However, as sturgeon species upstream of Iron Gate are restricted to sterlets, the main focus of the conference will be on the status of Lower Danube/ Black Sea sturgeons.


The key objective of the conference is to support the concrete implementation of the Pan-European Action Plan for Sturgeons (PANEUAP; adopted by the Bern Convention and endorsed under the EU Habitats Directive) in the Danube Basin by

  • providing an overview on status and monitoring of sturgeon populations in the Danube Basin and the Black Sea Basin;
  • discussing the need for a basin wide and long-term fishing ban for sturgeons in all Danube and Black Sea countries and next concrete steps to improve the future protection of sturgeon populations;
  • discussing next concrete steps towards the establishment of ex-situ facilities in the Lower Danube;
  • enhancing cooperation across borders and sectors by inviting / bringing together participants from relevant countries and sectors,
  • agreeing on concrete measures and next steps that will put the Pan-European Sturgeon Action Plan objectives and actions into practice;

The Conference will be structured in 6 sessions. It will start with keynote presentations providing an overview on the state of sturgeon conservation in Europe, the challenges in place and actions under way. Main issues covered by the conference will include i.a. the need for a basin wide, long-term fishing ban for sturgeons, the urgent need for ex-situ facilities to avoid the extinction of the sturgeons before existing or planned measures bring concrete results, the status of national and basin-wide implementation of the Pan-European Action Plan for Sturgeons (adopted by the Bern Convention and endorsed under the EU Habitats Directive) in the Danube Basin, and a discussion on the next concrete steps to ensure the implementation of the PANEUAP. The Conference will cover the Danube region as well as the Black Sea region, as sturgeons spend an important part of their life cycle in their feeding grounds in the Black Sea.

 

Conservation of Danube Sturgeons, Galati, Romania, 28/29/30 October 2019; Very first ideas on potential key messages

 Dear participant to the conference!

The list below presents very first ideas on potential key messages which may result from the individual sessions and which conference participants may be asked to convene on in the conference. We underline that these are very first ideas and may be changed / amended considerably within the sessions pending on the outcome of discussions and interventions. We would welcome very much if you would help us by your active participation in the sessions and by addressing clearly what you consider as important finding / key message which is worthwhile to be summarized as outcome of our forthcoming conference.

Introduction and list of very first ideas on potential key messages:

Introduction:

The overall objective of the Conference – jointly organised by “Dunarea de Jos” University of Galati (Research and Development Center for Sturgeon, Aquatic Habitats and Biodiversity) with DSTF (Danube Sturgeon Task Force), Romanian Ministry of Water and Forests, Romanian Ministry of Environment, NAFA (Romanian National Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture), WSCS (World Sturgeon Conservation Society) and WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), under the patronage of Romanian Academy and The Romanian Presidency of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region was to address actions needed to conserve the critically endangered population of sturgeons in the entire Danube Basin, the Danube Delta and the Black Sea. The key objective is to support the concrete implementation of the Pan European Action Plan for Sturgeons (adopted by the Bern Convention and endorsed under the EU Habitats Directive) in the Danube Basin.

The Conference also focused on the elaboration of key messages to decision makers in all relevant institutions and other stakeholders as a basis for shaping future actions and the way forward to save sturgeons from extinction. Out of the wealth of information received, the following messages were identified which will serve as a basis for urgently required follow-up sturgeon conservation activities across countries and sectors on all relevant levels. All Conference participants jointly convened on the following key messages of the European Sturgeon Conference:

Key messages (please note that in the final version only the key messages will be listed; all references to sessions and their content will be deleted in the final version in order not to exceed two pages)

 Session 1 - Setting the scene:

This session will “set the scene” for the entire conference by providing an overview on the eight European Sturgeon species native to Europe, their current IUCN status, and an overview on inspiring examples of actions under way.

Potential key messages and recommendations of session 1 may include

The participants in the Conference RECALL that

  • we know what to do to protect and restore sturgeon populations in the Danube and Black Sea basins and that we are not starting from scratch;
  • the Pan European Action Plan (PANEUAP) is the framework for structuring sturgeon conservation at the national, regional and European levels;
  • conservation of sturgeons is an ongoing, long-term challenge;
  • many players need to be involved and that coordination across sectors and borders is key to success;
  • utmost urgency must be given to implement the actions of the PANEUAP.
  • a focal point for sturgeon conservation should be nominated by each country to the EU and to the Bern Convention.

 

Session 2: Status of Danube sturgeon populations and monitoring

The session will cope with the actual status of sturgeon populations in the Danube River with an emphasis on the remaining anadromous populations and connected monitoring activities in the Lower Danube River, its Delta and the Black Sea. The current monitoring activities in place is (in most parts of the Lower Danube and the Black Sea region) not yet in line with the recommendations of the PANEUAP.

Potential key messages and recommendations of session 2 may include

They furthermore

  • EMPHASISE the need to have a sound monitoring of sturgeon populations in place as lined out by the PANEUAP as a prerequisite for taking targeted action to save the surviving sturgeon populations;
  • URGE all competent authorities to acknowledge the importance of a sound monitoring and to provide sufficient resources for these activities on a long-term basis (action 5.1.3 of PANEUAP);
  • APPRECIATE that the coordination of monitoring across borders and the sharing data have started and URGE the competent authorities to enhance these considerably to ensure more accurate cross-border assessments of sturgeon populations (result 5.3 of PANEUAP).

 

 Session 3 - Sustainable Management of wild sturgeon populations in Danube and Black Sea and monitoring

This session will focus on the potential need for a long-term fishing ban and strengthened enforcement for sturgeons in the Danube - and Black Sea region.

Potential key messages and recommendations of session 3 may include

The participants in the Conference 

  • REAFFIRM that populations need protection from further losses of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, such as poaching, and from by-catch, to prevent their extinction and for effective conservation; (result 1.1 of PANEUAP)
  • UNDERLINE that fishing bans and conservation efforts have to be long-term due to late maturity of sturgeons and resulting long life-cycles) (action 1.1.1 of PANEUAP);
  • REAFFIRM that action is needed to protect sturgeons from being caught as by-catch in their feeding areas in the Black Sea where they spend most of their life-cycle (result 1.2 and action 1.2.1 of PANEUAP).

 

Session 4 - Habitat and migration

This session will focus on the ecologically connected topics of habitat and migration, corresponding to objectives 3 "Sturgeon habitats are protected and restored in key rivers" and 4 "Sturgeon migration (up-and downstream) is secured or facilitated" of the PANEUAP.

Potential key messages and recommendations of session 4 may include that

The participants in the Conference

  • RECALL that protection and restoration (where necessary) of key habitats for feeding and spawning are prerequisites for the survival of populations still living in the wild and for conservation measures (such as for supportive releases) to be effective (corresponding to objective 3 of the PANEUAP), and that protection and restoration (where necessary) of migration corridors are key to successful conservation (objective 4 of PANEUAP).                
  • URGE all competent authorities 
  • to DEPLOY all relevant instruments and to take all appropriate measures to ensure that no deterioration of the still remaining habitats and migration corridors take place and that, were necessary, restoration efforts are undertaken; and to ENHANCE ongoing efforts to overcome the barriers to migration of fish across the barriers at the Iron Gate.

 

Session 5: Active support of populations

This session is devoted to facilities to preserve the genetic potential of Danube sturgeons to bridge the gap between measures taken and first results to be expected. Due to the late maturity of sturgeons, stocks need considerable time to stabilise or to recover even if all necessary actions will be taken. To minimize the risk of extinction of the Danube sturgeons, so-called “ex-situ facilities” are considered necessary to underpin on-going and future supportive release programs.

Potential key messages and recommendations of session 5 may include that

The participants in the Conference

  • AFFIRM that with the current status of Danube sturgeon populations, ex-situ measures are indispensable for their survival (action 2.1.1 of PANEUAP);
  • EMPHASISE that support for ex-situ conservation from International Funding Instruments is urgently needed (action 2.1.2 of PANEUAP);
  • EMPHASIZE that ex-situ measures should be carried out in close collaboration with cost sharing between the countries sharing the same stocks; (action 2.1.3 of PANEUAP);
  • EMPHASISE that criteria for rearing of sturgeons in ex-situ facilities must include fitness for survival as the prime target.
  • RECOMMEND that ex-situ facilities should mainly be non-commercial to ensure fitness for survival of reared sturgeons but that expertise from commercial aquaculture and/ or fishery might be involved in certain activities on the basis of a provision of services;

 

Session 6: Discussion of next steps

The goal of this session is to determine the concrete next steps with a time horizon until the end of 2020 with experts / focal points responsible for the implementation of the PANEUAP.

Potential key messages and recommendations of session 6 may include (please note that the bullet points below are very first ideas and that the main input will be provided by country representatives in the panels, so these findings are most likely to be subject to changes; however they may provide food for thoughts):

The Participants in the Conference

  • EMPHASISE that target-oriented funding and reliable competent structures are a prerequisite for successful implementation of the PANEUAP (result 7.1 of PANEUAP)
  • STRESS that continuous monitoring of the implementation of the PANEUAP is vital for the effectiveness of measures and reaching its objectives (result 9.1 of PANEUAP)
  • UNDERLINE that promotion of sturgeon conservation across all relevant entities of government is a prerequisite for effective action
  • furthermore CONSIDER that the participation across all relevant levels of government may facilitate access to international funding instruments where such funding is necessary
  • URGE all the Lower Danube States and the relevant competent fisheries authorities to cooperate and coordinate measures to monitor, protect and restore the sturgeon populations in the Lower Danube and the Black Sea.