An EU-funded project is investigating ways to improve wild freshwater fish stocks

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16 Feb

In the framework of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, the European Commission has funded the €3.8 million ‘IMPRESS’ project (Improved Production Strategies for Endangered Freshwater Species), with the main objective of developing better fish-rearing and restocking methods which could help reverse the decline in wild freshwater fish population.

In fact, the Atlantic salmon, the European eel and sturgeon are all under threat from human activity in European seas, rivers and lakes, and their population has significantly declined for the past 30 years, despite efforts to restock fish in the wild.

Because of these species’ major impact on local economy (rural employment and leisure tourism mainly), the preservation of their habitat and population is critical for Europe. Finn-Arne Weltzien, the project coordinator from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, stated that: “Most stock fish today are reared for fish farms. This means fish are selected to grow fast and grow big. In the wild, a different set of ‘life skills’ is needed: avoiding predators, finding mates, swimming long distances. With new genetic and fish-rearing techniques, we want to produce fish that can survive better in the wild and reverse population decline.” In order to achieve this goal, the project is training a new generation of PhD students across Europe with skills and methods to improve and search for new stocking strategies for these endangered species. Such methods range from molecular biology to fisheries management. The project partners are also providing advices to hydropower operators to adapt dams in fish-friendly ways during migration seasons.

The project, started in 2015, will finish in December 2018 and gathers five EU member states plus Norway and Israel. A conference will take place on the 17-19 June in Norway with the aim of discussing and exploring both the pros and cons of current restocking strategies. Additionally, it will enable the researchers to present and discuss their findings.

More information on the project is available here and here.
You can visit the project’s official website here: http://www.impress-itn.eu/
You can also access more information on the conference here: https://www.nmbu.no/studier/evu/kurs/node/32956





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