The “Beast of the Danube,” a massive species of salmon that formerly called the famous river home, has found its last remaining refuge in the Balkans threatened by dam building, even as ecologists work hard to repopulate the species.
The Danube salmon can grow to a staggering length, according to BBC News, living for up to 30 years and reaching the size of a man. Though it once called the entire Danube basin home, the salmon is now mostly limited to the rivers and waterways of the Balkans, between Slovenia and Montenegro. Ulrich Eichelmann, who heads the environmental group Riverwatch, describes the fish as “very fast, lean, and elegant. And very beautiful.” Eichelmann is part of a group of ecologists launching a campaign to preserve and repopulate the Danube salmon.
“We Europeans cry out with indignation about the plight of the last tigers in the wild in Asia, and demand efforts to save them,” he noted. “But we seem blind to the threat to these last tigers of our own – the Danube salmon.”
— Andy Heil (@Andy_Heil) March 23, 2015
The fish, which is known as Huchen in German, according to GlobalPost, faces a series of dire threats from proposed hydroelectric construction. Scientists from seven countries contributed to new research, which has revealed that a full 65 percent of the Danube salmon population is situated in just 43 rivers in the region. In those waterways, 93 proposed dams have been identified that could serve to further isolate the salmon population, wiping out many of the fish. The species requires a very specific habitat, which includes fast-flowing fresh water and a great deal of space, according to Steven Weiss, an American scientist based in Austria.
— Game & Wildlife (@Gameandwildlife) March 23, 2015
Despite the species’ struggles in the Danube region, one man is vigorously working to return the salmon to the area. Josef Fischer, a wine grower and fisherman who lives in the Wachau region of Austria, breeds thousands of the salmon each year, eventually releasing them into the Danube. Though the species once populated the river in great numbers, hydroelectric construction in the 1950s and 60s decimated their habitat.
Fischer estimates that he has 10,000 salmon in holding tanks separated by age, and of those, several thousand make it into the wild each year. While salmon can often be prey to animals in other parts of the world, as the Inquisitr has previously noted, Fisher says that the Danube fish find no space on his plate.
“I haven’t eaten this fish for 10 years,” he noted. “I like them too much.”
Riverwatch has advocated canceling the construction of nearly 2,000 dam building projects in the Balkans, in an effort to save the Danube salmon.
[Image: Alamy via BBC News]