LIFE Sterlet - Restoration of sterlet populations in the Austrian Danube

LIFE14 NAT/AT/000057

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

Contact details:

Contact person: thomas friedrich
Tel: 436504507428
Email: thomas.friedrich@boku.ac.at

Project description:


The sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) is the smallest species of the Danube sturgeons and resides for its whole lifecycle in freshwater without the need to migrate to the Black Sea. Sterlets are still present in very small quantities in the Upper Danube whereas the large anadromous sturgeon species became extinct in the last century due to overfishing and migration barriers. Sturgeons are an indicator of human impact on aquatic ecosystems and the species they host. The Austrian population of the sterlet is threatened with extinction as only very few individuals remain. Their extremely low densities mean that they are at the critical limit for self-reproduction.


The LIFE Sterlet project will apply innovative methods for breeding autochthonous sterlets ahead of releasing them into the wild. The release of genetic autochthonous juvenile sterlets will support the wild population by reaching the required population size for sustainable natural reproduction.

Target areas for the release are the two free-flowing sections of the Austrian Danube in the Wachau and the Danube National Park regions, the latter including the Morava river at the Austro-Slovakian border. These areas are home to suitably diverse habitats that offer the greatest chance of sustaining populations of the sterlet in the long term. Furthermore, the project aims to identify sensitive habitats in the project areas and provide recommendations for their conservation. The LIFE project will complement other LIFE projects that have been carried out on the Austrian Danube and have improved the project areas.

Expected results:

  • Creation of a genetic database including a hatchery and wild stocks;
  • Establishment of a rearing container and hatching of 300 000 eggs per year over five years;
  • Annual release of at least 10 000 juveniles in every project area over five years;
  • Establishment of a population of at least 4 000 reproducing adults in the Danube National Park - Morava system and 2 000 specimens in the Wachau area; and
  • Development of a management plan for protecting identified key habitats, restoring new habitats, managing populations, developing release strategies and evaluating protection status through international participation (DSTF, IGB- Berlin, ISS 8, WSCS).



Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Fish


endangered species

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...

Target species

 Acipenser ruthenus     

Natura 2000 sites

SCI AT1202000 March-Thaya-Auen
SCI AT1204000 Donau-Auen östlich von Wien
SPA AT1205000 Wachau - Jauerling
SCI AT1205A00 Wachau
SPA SKCHVU007 Dunajské luhy
SCI SKUEV0064 Bratislavské luhy
SCI SKUEV0270 Hrušov
SCI SKUEV0314 Morava
SPA AT1204V00 Donau-Auen östlich von Wien



Coordinator University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, ViennaInstitute for Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management
Type of organisation Research institution
Description The Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management is a scientific institution conducting research on the functions, processes and structures of aquatic ecosystems and their environment. Research and training focus on hydro-morphological dynamics, nutrient cycles, food chains, habitat demands and biotic interactions. Additional fields include fish biology, aquaculture and fishery research and fish ecological monitoring.
Partners MA45(Magistratsabteilung 45- Wiener Gewässer), Austria IZ(Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences), Slovakia


Project reference LIFE14 NAT/AT/000057
Duration 01-SEP-2015 to 31-DEC -2021
Total budget 907,096.00 €
EU contribution 544,096.00 €
Project location Niederösterreich(Österreich) Wien(Österreich) Bratislavsky kraj(Slovakia Slovensko) Zapadne Slovensko(Slovakia Slovensko) Stredne Slovensko(Slovakia Slovensko) Vychodne Slovensko(Slovakia Slovensko) Extra-Regio(Slovakia Slovensko) Associated Slovakia (SK)(Slovakia Slovensko)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication "The Danube River Basin District Management Plan" ...
Publication "Sturgeon 2020 - A program for the protection and ...
Publication "VIENNA DECLARATION on Global Sturgeon Conservatio ...
Publication "VIENNA DECLARATION on Global Sturgeon Conservatio ...
Slides Presentation "Restoration of sterlet populations in the Austria ...
Video link "Europe's Prehistoric Fish" (5'39) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08azc9_xjUk


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