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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article22 September 2023European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency2 min read

Breathing new LIFE into Europe’s aquatic ecosystems

Europe’s leading freshwater experts united at the XVII European Congress of Ichthyology to discuss a broad scope of scientific topics on various fields of fish research. During the Congress, a symposium was organised to present the LIFE Programme. 

post fishes
©CINEA 2023

The XVII European Congress of Ichthyology, held at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic, drew ichthyologists from all over Europe and the world. Amongst these were 10 LIFE projects, which presented cutting-edge solutions designed to improve the conservation status of threatened freshwater fish species. The LIFE symposium was centred on three themes: control of alien and invasive species, protection of threatened species and actions to protect neglected fish species. 

The LIFE Programme recognises the significance of safeguarding freshwater species and delivers innovative solutions to do so. Since 1992, more than 180 LIFE projects have targeted 65 per cent of eligible freshwater fish. By mobilising more than EUR 400 million, the Programme has become a key player in the conservation of several European fish species. 

LIFE and invasive species 

Among the remarkable projects presented at the Congress was LIFE Predator. It aims to halt the spread of the invasive wels catfish (Silurus glanis), which has out-competed native fish in several South European countries. The project uses early warning detection systems and selective capture methods to prevent, detect and combat the spread of the wels catfish within lakes and reservoirs in southern Europe.  

In addition, LIFE Predator recognises the importance of public awareness campaigns for achieving its goals and aims to ‘reach over a million people’ through such events, explains Pietro Volta, coordinator of LIFE Predator. 

LIFE and endangered species 

Also highlighted was LIFE GrayMarble, which focuses on the Critically Endangered marble trout (Salmo marmoratus) and the Adriatic grayling (Thymallus thymallus) in the Dora Baltea catchment in north-western Italy. The two species - threatened by habitat fragmentation and shifts in water flow patterns - are benefiting from improved hatcheries, removal of barriers and habitat protection.  

‘To improve habitat quality, the project aims to remove or provide with fish passages 17 barriers, with the aim of reconnecting a 20 km long stretch of the River Dora Baltea,’ explains Alessandro Balestrieri, coordinator for LIFE GrayMarble.  

LIFE and neglected species 

Certain fish species are not receiving enough conservation attention and are not being addressed by recovery measures. The Mediterranean trout (Salmo cettii), primarily found in small mountain streams in Italy, faces threats from habitat modification, pollution and non-native species. LIFE Streams is dedicated to its recovery and conservation by identifying pure wild populations, eradicating alien populations and translocating native trout.  

The European Congress of Ichthyology underscored the urgent need to tackle the declining conservation status of European freshwater fish. The LIFE projects and their innovative solutions showcased there offer a glimmer of hope for the future of these crucial freshwater fish. They are essential not only for the survival of these species but also for the overall health and resilience of Europe's aquatic ecosystems. 

Find out more:  

Scientific poster - XVII European Congress of Ichthyology


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