HAPPYFISH - Saving life in meanders and oxbow lakes of Emajõgi River on Alam-Pedja NATURA2000 area

LIFE07 NAT/EE/000120

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Meelis TAMBETS
Tel: +372 5176886
Fax: +372 742 27 67
Email: meelis.tambets@gmail.com

Project description:


The ‘Alam-Pedja’ Natura 2000 site is situated by the Emajõgi River and contains numerous oxbow lakes and meanders. All species of Estonian freshwater fish have been found in this area, and for asp (Aspius aspius), spined loach (Gobitis taenia), Eurasian weather loach (Misgumus fossilis) and European bullhead (Cottus gobio), it is the key habitat in Estonia. For the project’s targeted species additional conservation measures, appropriate planning and implementation of protection (action plans, guidelines) are necessary to guarantee their good conservation status.


The project aimed to:

  • Guarantee the preservation of habitats and the stability (or increase) of populations of the European priority fish species, Aspius aspius, Gobitis taenia, Misgurnus fossilis and Cottus gobio in Alam-Pedja;
  • Arrange the management and preservation of the target species’ habitats/spawning grounds according to the aims and priorities of planned protection measures;
  • Promote public awareness of the habitat requirements and conservation needs of European priority fish species and to encourage more wildlife-friendly attitudes;
  • Develop international cooperation in order to facilitate conservation including public education efforts;
  • Draw up habitat-related protection measures in order to facilitate the Estonian ministry of the environment in preserving the Aspius aspius, Gobitis taenia, Misgurnus fossilis and Cottus gobio habitats in Estonian Natura 2000 rivers;
  • Promote the management and preservation of Natura 2000 biotopes (floodplains, river habitats, etc) in the Alam-Pedja to guarantee the presence and quality of spawning grounds for the target species.

  • Results

    The rehabilitation of the oxbow lakes resulted in the reopening of connections with the main river of ten oxbow lakes. Such restoration had a positive impact on a 14 700 metres stretch of the river (50.2 hectares of water surface). Sediments were removed over sections of the river amounting to a length of 720 m. The restoration of the alluvial meadows resulted in more than 50 ha of spawning ground. Moreover, the reopening of the meanders and management of the floodplains has made it possible for fishes to use a further 24 sites as spawning grounds. The reintroduction of asp consisted of the release of around 53 000 one-summer-old individuals into the Emajõgi River at Alam-Pedja. The results of this action were analysed and form the basis for other reintroductions of endangered fish species. A total of 70 individuals were marked in order to study heir migration routes. Public awareness and dissemination actions consisted of four three-day study camps at Palupõhja, the centre of the Alam-Pedja. Around 120 curious children and young benefitted from these opportunities to learn more about wildlife and Natura 2000. Additionally, the project generated much media coverage in TV, radio, magazines, local and national newspapers. It also produced a useful booklet on its conservation aims and activities. Furthermore, the project team cooperated with fishermen to build up a network that enables it to carry out its monitoring activities. Finally, a noticeboard was erected to provide information on the target species and to invite visitors to discover more about the area’s natural values.

    The project received the Estonian Award of the Best Environmental Action 2011.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Fish


endangered species‚  freshwater ecosystem‚  protected area‚  site rehabilitation‚  preventive measure

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Aspius aspius   Cobitis taenia   Cottus gobio   Misgurnus fossilis     

Target Habitat types

  • 6450 - Northern boreal alluvial meadows
  • 91F0 - "Riparian mixed forests of Quercus robur, Ulmus laevis and Ulmus minor, Fraxinus excelsior or Fraxinus angustifolia, along the great rivers (Ulmenion minoris)"
  • 3260 - Water courses of plain to montane levels with the Ranunculion fluitantis and Callitricho-Batrachion vegetation

Natura 2000 sites

SCI EE0080374 Alam-Pedja



Coordinator Eesti Loodushoiu Keskus/Wildlife Estonia
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The beneficiary, Wildlife Estonia, is a small NGO (with five permanent staff members) focusing its activities on the conservation of aquatic species and habitats, as well as developing sustainable management methods for rivers and lakes.
Partners Nature Protection Association 'Kotkas' (Eagle), Estonia Environmental Information and Technology Centre-Ministry of Environment, Estonia


Project reference LIFE07 NAT/EE/000120
Duration 01-FEB-2009 to 30-NOV -2012
Total budget 1,157,546.00 €
EU contribution 573,615.00 €
Project location Kesk-Eesti(Estonia Eesti)


Read more:

Brochure "Natura values of Alam-Pedja watershed" (2.02MB)
Project web site Project's website (ET/EN)
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Juhendmaterjal Natura 2000 jõeliste elupaikade ja ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Publication: Technical report "Elustiku kaitse Emajõe vanajõgedes Alam-Pedja NAT ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version