Saving Britain’s Royal Fish - ZSL

UK sturgeon action plan

An armour-plated fish once so popular that King Edward II declared it ‘royal’ is set to make a comeback thanks to an ambitious plan launched by UK conservationists to bring the ancient, Critically Endangered native sturgeon back to UK waters.

To mark Saturday’s historic Coronation, a team of conservationists led by ZSL have today (3 May 2023) launched the UK Sturgeon Conservation Strategy and Action Plan, a science-based guide developed by experts which meticulously outlines the action required to recover numbers of Atlantic and Critically Endangered European sturgeons in the UK.

Big UK fish

Hannah McCormick, ZSL’s Conservation Project Officer for Estuaries and Wetlands, and one of the experts behind the plan, explained: “Growing up to 5m in length, with long whisker-like barbels and diamond-shaped armoured plates along their backs, sturgeons look like they’ve swum straight out of a paleontologist’s textbook. These impressive and ancient animals were once common in UK rivers and along our coastline, so it’s hardly surprising that they were declared “royal fish” by King Edward II back in the 14th Century, meaning all sturgeons landed in the UK have to be offered to the Crown – although nowadays this is just a formality. Fast-forward 700 years, and sturgeons have all but disappeared from our waters, after dam construction in rivers blocking their migration routes and overfishing caused numbers to plummet in the latter half of the 20th century.”
The team behind the action plan will be working with key stakeholders and river users to take the necessary steps towards sturgeon restoration – such as identifying essential habitats, the restoration of migratory passages and reducing accidental bycatch.
This UK-wide action plan forms part of a larger call to recover populations of the Critically Endangered royal fish, following successful conservation action in France and Germany helping to save European sturgeons from the brink of extinction.

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Posted On: 03/05/2023

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