EU PROTECTS > Our Environment > Saving the sturgeon: How the EU is conserving nature and supporting locals in the Danube

“By learning about river wildlife, my students are better prepared to take care of our planet for current and future generations.”

Julie Himmelbauer

The sturgeon has populated our rivers for over 200 million years, but today 5 out of the 6 species native to the Danube are critically endangered. To preserve the species, the EU is bringing together researchers, local officials, NGOs and teachers from Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

Dwindling sturgeon sightings in the Danube are a wake-up call. There is an immediate need to protect Europe’s biodiversity while safeguarding the livelihoods of local fishing communities. And it’s not only sturgeons that are at risk – many more species that play a key role in our ecosystems need to be protected urgently.

Saving the sturgeon: How the EU is conserving nature and supporting locals in the Danube

Sturgeon populations in the Danube river have been dropping over the past 50 years. The loss of this ancient fish would have serious consequences for the health of the river and the Danube’s fishing communities alike. Learn about the ordinary heroes working to protect the sturgeon habitat, the animals and communities that depend on it.

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Thomas Friedrich

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences


“Today, Europe’s sturgeons are threatened by overfishing, habitat reduction, dams and other physical barriers to their migration routes. With the EU’s help, we are working with different countries in the region to overcome these threats.”

“Sturgeons play an important role in the whole ecosystem. By combining research and active conservation, it is possible to improve the river for all of its inhabitants – from fish to human.”

“It’s about more than one species. It’s about whether our society decides that we value a healthy environment.”

 - Thomas Friedrich

Ekaterina Voynova

World Wide Fund for Nature


“Bulgaria is a major producer of legal caviar worldwide. Because of their high-end status, wild sturgeon eggs have fallen prey to poachers in the illegal caviar trade.”

“Through this EU-funded project, we work with Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian and Serbian law enforcement officers to protect wild sturgeon spawning along the whole lower Danube, from the Iron Gate all the way to the Black Sea.”

“We can’t protect sturgeons on our side of the border alone.”

 - Ekaterina Voynova

Jutta Jahrl

World Wide Fund for Nature


“We coordinate the EU project committed to protecting sturgeons. We work directly with fishing communities in the Danube region who have depended on sturgeons for generations.”

“We hold public talks and training sessions with the fishermen to understand their needs and look into alternative livelihoods such as tourism or manufacturing local products.”


“Fishing should still be a source of income, but not at the expense of the sturgeon population.”

 - Jutta Jahrl

Cristina Munteanu

World Wide Fund for Nature


“Through the EU’s Danube conservation project, we’ve developed an educational kit for young people. It provides information about the Danube, its sturgeons and other natural resources.”

“This project is about more than just education, and it applies beyond Romania: We try to prepare people in the Danube region to create revenue in their communities as well as cultivate a respect for their surroundings.”

“We encourage young people to set up small businesses using what they have in their area—but without harming nature.”

 - Cristina Munteanu

Julie Himmelbauer

Teacher, Rudolf Steiner School


“My students have participated in the EU’s sturgeon repopulation programme. Each student releases a sturgeon into the wild.”

“It doesn’t matter whether they all become marine biologists in 20 years or not. If they remember this experience and become aware of their natural surroundings, then I think that’s already really positive.”

“With climate change, now more than ever, it’s important for younger generations to learn about river wildlife.”

 - Julie Himmelbauer


Did you know?


The number of countries teamed up under the EU’s Life for Danube Sturgeons project (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine). The benefits are intended to cover all the countries of the Danube region.

2,500 pairs of breeding white pelicans

– the largest colony outside of Africa – arrive at the Danube Delta every spring. Like the sturgeon, they are protected by EU laws and included in the EU’s Strategy for the Danube Region, which unites 14 countries with organisations, like World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), to preserve nature and build prosperity along the river.


the proportion of the EU’s land area covered by Natura 2000, the largest network of protected areas in the world.


The percentage of fishermen among the 200 community members of the EU-funded conservation project (LIFE for Danube Sturgeons).


The number of sterlets (a type of sturgeon) to be released annually as part of the EU LIFE sterlet repopulation project over the next 4-5 years.

EU pollinators

Another Europe-wide initiative to protect species (bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects) which are vital for our health, food security and the health of our planet.


Some of them may even come from your country.

Connected by the EU, there is a network of local heroes working together to help protect us from environmental threats, pollution, the loss of endangered species and more. From conservationists to customs officers, food safety officers to flood response teams, discover how the EU supports local heroes in your country.