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NGOs Call for Restoration of Sturgeon, a "Royal Fish", to Irish Waters

19th May 2023
Also known as “dinosaur fish”, sturgeon can be traced back to the Jurassic period
Also known as “dinosaur fish”, sturgeon can be traced back to the Jurassic period Credit: Wikimedia

Two NGOs have called on the government to examine restoring sturgeon to Irish waters.

Also known as “dinosaur fish”, sturgeon can be traced back to the Jurassic period and were once “frequent” in these waters, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) and the British Blue Marine Foundation state in a joint report.

“Before Irish independence, they were designated a “royal fish”, and any sturgeon caught was automatically the property of the British Crown,” the NGOs say.

“A legal review commissioned for this study found that under the Habitats Directive Ireland is obliged to examine the feasibility of reintroducing sturgeon,” they say.

Existing data show that suitable habitat exists for them, particularly in the rivers Shannon and Suir, they say.

The migratory fish spawn in freshwater, but spend most of their lives at sea.

“Sturgeon can therefore be an “umbrella species”, as in measures to restore their habitat will benefit a range of other species in the aquatic and marine environments,” they say.

The UK Sturgeon Conservation Strategy and Action Plan 2023-2033, recently published, complements pan-European efforts to restore the critically endangered sturgeon throughout its former range. Ireland must be part of this wider effort, they state.

IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty said “we need to see a more concerted effort to reintroduce species to Ireland that have been driven to extinction”.

“We believe the sturgeon should be a priority, as many of the measures to restore its habitat, such as improving the status of rivers and the creation of marine protected areas, are already government commitments, “he says.

“ It’s also a magnificent animal that deserves to be brought back to Ireland in its own right,” Fogarty says.

Adrian Gahan of Blue Marine Foundation says said that surgeon once moved freely through the seas and rivers of Britain, Ireland and continental Europe.

“It is great to see conservation groups from across Europe come together to restore these ancient animals,” Gahan said.

“Nature does not recognise national borders so nor should our conservation efforts. Blue Marine Foundation is delighted to partner with The Irish Wildlife Trust on this important study,” he said.

Published in Marine Wildlife Team

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!