How should the Danube river system contribute to the fish migration restoration targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030?

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10 Feb

On 13 January 2021, MEP Michal Wiezik (Slovakia, EPP) asked a written question to the European Commission on the Danube river system’s contribution to the EU Biodiversity Strategy’s restauration targets.

This request echoes a webinar of the European Parliament Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment, co-chaired by M. Wiezik with fellow MEP Carmen Avram (Romania, S&D) back in October 2020. At the time, discussions highlighted the impact of hydropower on fish migration and the Commission’s commitments, under the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, to restore at least 25,000 km of free-flowing rivers.
 
Drawing on from the debates, the conclusion was that actions were crucial now in order to preserve European rivers and freshwater ecosystems. Since 1970, populations of migratory freshwater fish species have plummeted by 93% and only 40% of surface waters in the EU (rivers, lakes, wetlands, transitional and coastal waters) are in good ecological condition. Hydropower is one of the causes of this loss of biodiversity, landscapes and even sometimes water supply. In that context, the EAA decided to raise awareness on the need to stop this environmental quagmire by hampering hydropower expansion with both the EAA Hydropower Position Paper and a Manifesto entitled “No more new hydropower in Europe” co-signed by more than 100 environmental NGOs.

Aware of these dire facts, Mr. Wiezik raised the question of EU’s longest river whose fish migration is hindered by barriers between the Upper Danube and the Lower and Middle Danube at the Iron Gate on the Serbian/Romanian border, but also at Gabčíkovo in Slovakia. In addition, he also brought to the fore that the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) was trying to identify the preferred solution for fish migration through these dams, as well as a 2021-2027 Update of the Danube River Basin Management Plan (DRBMP). Based on these points, he laid forth the following questions:
 
  1. Should the Danube river system contribute to the fish migration restoration targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030?
  2. Does the Commission agree that feasibility assessments need to be launched as soon as possible in the 2021-2027 period in order to contribute to attaining the 2030 EU biodiversity targets?
  3. Will the Commission propose inclusion in the 2021-2027 DRBMP Update of a firm commitment to ensure the necessary assessments for facilitating a fish passage at Gabčíkovo?

In the end, there is no doubt that the Berlaymont’s premises will receive more and more of suchlike wake-up calls in the months to come. With the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 down the line, EAA, other NGOs and all relevant stakeholders will advocate to protect freshwater ecosystems and put an end to this ecological non-sense!
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