A wrong approach to river management is adopted following the 2023 Slovenian floods warns Fishing Association of Slovenia RZS

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01 Jul

Water issues are extremely increasing throughout Europe with an emblematic example of Slovenia’s last year’s intensive floodings. Those floodings, whose effects increased due to inadequately sited infrastructure and years of water mismanagement, have further triggered a wave of national regulatory changes and innovations having a major impact on aquatic ecosystems and Slovenian rivers' morphology according to several NGOs and associations such as EAA Member Ribiska Zveza Slovenije (RZS). In light of this, NGO Balkan River Defence – supported by the Slovenian Fishing association and EAA member Ribiska Zveza Slovenije (RZS) – launched a campaign to collect photos of the situation on the ground.

Mismanagement of the 2023 floods is causing additional ecological harm

In 2023 Slovenia faced heavy floods nationwide impacting the country. A local NGO Balkan River Defence – a movement in defence of wild rivers of the Balkans – writes, the reaction by the Slovenian government on the 2023 floods, is a demonstration of “poorly planned interventions, the absence of inter-ministerial coordination and a lack of a holistic approach have led to the biggest systematic destruction of rivers in Slovenia to date”.

EAA Member, Ribiska Zveza Slovenije (RZS), supporting the NGO Balkan River Defence on this case, underlines the mismanagement of Slovenian rivers and aquatic ecosystems. The chosen modus operandi by the Slovenian government results in a mismanaged repair of Slovenian – once pristine – rivers looking very much alike to river regulation harming river morphology, migratory fish species, and the local communities living near riverbeds say Balkan River Defence and Slovenian EAA Member RZS.

Photo campaign serves as tool to showcase the environmental damage caused by policy choices

The local NGO Balkan River Defence has launched a public campaign of collecting and mapping photo data of the negative results of this river management, an important task supported by the Fishing Association of Slovenia Ribiska Zveza Slovenije (RZS). The aim is to raise awareness among the Slovenian society. Since the launch of this online database, it is clear that rivers and smaller streams are being channelized by heavy machinery even during the spawning season of native fish species. These actions inevitably are leading towards situations in which riverbeds are heavily being transformed into “straight channels”.

The long-term goal of this campaign is to open up a wider debate on this topic and to give a voice and an opportunity to experts who propose more thoughtful (and cheaper) solutions that will bring better flood safety while preserving the watercourses of which Slovenians are justly proud.

Photo credits: Balkan River Defence

The Slovenian angling community shows its concerns for the sake of people, nature and aquatic ecosystems

"We are rightly concerned that the flood measures will cause more damage to fish habitats and fish life than the floods themselves. If, instead of sustainable solutions, we continue to concrete, regulate, stone banks and straighten channels, then fish will not have the conditions to continue to live and spawn in such conditions. For the sake of protecting people and property, we will lose rivers and the life in them, instead of protecting both - people and fish life", says Miroslav Žaberl PhD - President of Slovenian EAA member Ribiska Zveza Slovenije (RZS).

The coalition further adds “to put it in economic terms, [it would be] a travesty to needlessly destroy rivers, which are Slovenia's great natural wealth. Preserved watercourses bring to the country and its citizens, in addition to pride and places to disconnect, many positive economic effects that are so often forgotten.”

Furthermore, it should be noted that 75% of Slovenian campsites are located next to rivers, and attract many tourists because of the river biodiversity, presence of fish and the wonders of Slovenian freshwater ecosystems. Fishing in Slovenia's inland waters is also a very important socio-economic activity as the EAA Slovenia Ribiska Zveza Slovenije (RZS) has 64 fishing families under its umbrella, with a total of 11 757 members, and together with recreational or unregistered fishermen, there are at least 20 000 active fishermen in Slovenia. When adding to this the many tourist fishermen who, according to a survey carried out in 2021 in the river Soča basin (Posočje) region and co-financed by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, are the best type of tourist in Slovenia, spending around EUR 274 per day (the average tourist in the mountain municipalities spends EUR 135, according to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia), then it can be said that the destruction of one's own source of income by state funding would be an ineffective decision.

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