The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) and Blue Marine Foundation have jointly published a report, ‘Restoring the Sturgeon to Irish Waters’ urging the Government to examine the feasibility of reintroducing this long-lost and enigmatic fish.
Sturgeon, sometimes called ‘dinosaur fish’ as they as they have been swimming in rivers and seas since the Jurassic Period, can grow to over two metres and were once frequent in the waters around our coast.
Before Irish independence they were designated a ‘royal fish’ and any sturgeon caught was automatically the property of the Crown.
A legal review commissioned for this study found that under the Habitats Directive Ireland is obliged to examine the feasibility of reintroducing sturgeon while existing data show that suitable habitat exists for them, particularly in the Rivers Shannon and Suir.
These migratory fish spawn in freshwater but spend most of their lives at sea. Sturgeon can therefore be an ‘umbrella species’, i.e. measures to restore their habitat will benefit a range of other species in the aquatic and marine environments.
The publication of our report coincides with the recent release of the UK Sturgeon Conservation Strategy and Action Plan 2023-2033, which in turn complements pan-European efforts to restore the critically endangered sturgeon throughout its former range. Ireland must be part of this wider effort.
IWT campaign officer, Pádraic Fogarty says “we need to see a more concerted effort to reintroduce species to Ireland that have been driven to extinction. We believe the sturgeon should be a priority as many of the measures to restore its habitat, such as improving the status of rivers and the creation of marine protected areas, are already government commitments. It’s also a magnificent animal that deserves to be brought back to Ireland in its own right”.
Adrian Gahan of Blue Marine says “Sturgeon once moved freely through the seas and rivers of Britain, Ireland and continental Europe. It is great to see conservation groups from across Europe come together to restore these ancient animals. Nature does not recognise national borders so nor should our conservation efforts. Blue Marine Foundation is delighted to partner with The Irish Wildlife Trust on this important study. ”
Read the full report here.