The European Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) used to be an important habitant of the Rhine river system. This common sturgeon spawned in the mainstream in Germany and juveniles grew up downstream in the Dutch estuary. After more than a decade at sea sturgeon adults returned to the Rhine again to spawn. This life-cycle continued for millions of years, but stopped in the 1950’s due to a loss and degradation of habitat, water pollution and overfishing. We are currently working on the research to return this highly threatened species to the Rhine, which only survived in the Gironde delta in France and previously has been reintroduced in the Elbe river as well. Monitored reintroductions in the Rhine will tell us more about the chances of success of a possible full scale reintroduction in the near future. We therefore also work on a sturgeon rearing station for the Rhine in close cooperation with the French and German governments and biologists.
The Haringvliet Dreamfund Project
The Haringvliet used to be the most important river mouth of the rivers Meuse and Rhine. This estuary, with a gradual transition between fresh and salt water, sediment transport and strong tidal dynamics, used to be a highly productive ecosystem, with unique species. It was the entrance and exit for migratory fish. When in 1971 the rivers were closed from the sea by the Haringvliet dam, the rich estuarine ecosystem heavily deteriorated. The area became a stagnant freshwater lake, with algae seasonal blooming problems and ample migration possibilities for migratory fish, like sturgeon, salmon and eel.
In 2019, the Haringvlietdam has been opened (a little) by the Dutch government. Six large Dutch nature organizations have joint forces to optimally use this development. They aim to bring back dynamics for real estuarine nature, migratory fish and birds. The organisations started the project ‘Dream of the Haringvliet’ which is among others funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.
The European Atlantic sturgeon project is part of the Dream of the Haringvliet and is led by ARK Nature together with the World Wildlife Fund and the Royal Dutch Angling Assocation. The sturgeon project is co-financed by LIFE IP, the European Union's instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects.
Sturgeons in Rotterdam Zoo (Blijdorp)
European sturgeons can be seen in the aquarium of Rotterdam Zoo, one of our project partners. A unique way to discover this rare and impressive fish!