Rivers are some of the most extensively altered ecosystems on Earth. The majority of Europe’s rivers are not in a good ecological state. Our rivers are under immense pressure from a range of activities and obstacles like hydropower and barriers, which hamper rivers‘ resilience and capability to sustain wildlife, fish in particular.
Since the 1970’s, there has been a 90% collapse of migratory fish species in Europe. Today, there are more than 21,000 hydropower installations in place in Europe, and more than one million barriers. These are identified as key reasons for the continued decrease in Europe’s freshwater biodiversity.
River continuity is key to achieving good status of European waters under the EU Water Framework Directive. The EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 also aims to restore at least 25 000 km of free-flowing rivers by 2030 by removing barriers and restoring floodplains and wetlands.
Anglers, have been aware of the dramatic situation of Europe’s rivers for a very long time. They have, and are, taking things into their own hands.
Angling clubs and associations are taking part on the ground to remove barriers on European rivers and restore fish migration ways, concretely contributing to the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. Together with EAA and our partners from the Living Rivers Europe coalition we are working to make sure that other EU policies do not harm the restoration efforts. In the context of the revision of its Renewable Energy Directive, the EU must absolutely avoid encouraging the construction of new small-scale hydropower plants on European rivers through shortening the application process or financial support. It is also a key request by EFTTA and the angling community that any small-scale hydropower installation shall have fish passages to facilitate migration of all relevant fish as well as keeping these passages workable at all times!