Return salmonids to Baltic small rivers

The project aims to address the problem of excessive regulation of small Baltic rivers and therefore hindrances to migratory species, by applying best available practices for mitigation of migratory barriers in the pilot case and prioritising other rivers and dams for further action.

The following concrete results are foreseen to be achieved:

  • The very first ever constructed in Belarus fauna-passage/fishway around Stracha River dam at Olkhovka village in Grodno Region of Belarus is constructed and launched, opening the migration route and resulting in:
    • gradually improved and becoming more sustainable Baltic salmonid population in Vilija basin in Belarus
    • barrier mitigation in Stracha river will support connectivity for all aquatic species and restoration of its ecological status;
    • opportunities for fishing tourism in the Vilija basin in Belarus will be created in the future contributing to improvement of local rural communities’ wellbeing;
  • Shared knowledge on various migration barriers’ mitigation measures, their applicability to specific cases, as well as on tools for assessing their efficiency is obtained for BSR-wide use
  • Pilot cases for enhancement of up- and downstream migration of salmonds in Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Poland are described and prioritised and submitted for action to relevant national authorities and HELCOM, potentially as the follow-up of this Project

Project consortium is formed by a partnership of environmental NGOs, recreational fishermen, applied researchers and local authorities, united by a goal of re-vitalising small BSR rivers.

Within the project a close cooperation will be ensured with other relevant regional projects in the field of migration barriers’ mitigation measures.

 

Situation and background

Wild Baltic salmon and sea trout, listed as Vulnerable under HELCOM, need healthy river systems for migration and spawning during their life-cycle. BSR river ecosystems have been dammed for water supply, mills or power generation. The conservation issues on dammed rivers are well documented, with inadequate tangible progress to remove or bypass these dams for salmonid migration in eastern BSR countries.

The geographic scope of the project will cover the whole Eastern Baltic proper coast and basin, but focus on pilot bypassing a dam in the Stracha river in Belarus, built in the 1950s-60s near Olkhovka village, a location already evaluated as beneficial for salmonid recovery. Through further evaluations with partner organizations, the project will develop strategies for implementing dam bypass or removal in other river systems in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Russia.

 

Project activities and effects

Project Goal:

  • The goal of the project is to launch restoration of Baltic salmonid population in small Baltic Sea rivers, by generating and sharing knowledge on best cases and practices on migration barriers’ mitigation, including by construction of a pilot fauna-passage fishway on Stracha river (Belarus).

Objectives:

  • Launching salmonid population restoration programme on Stracha river (Belarus): construct efficient fishway/fauna-passage for up- and downstream migration
  • Launching a salmonid migration barriers‘ mitigation programme in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia with the purpose to remove barriers/dams or establish fishways in small rivers in the near future. This will include
    • Generating knowledge and examples of best practices and methods for migration barriers’ mitigation, globally and regionally;
    • Initiating a knowledge exchange/learning for future actions within BSR  CCB’s ambition is to gather and improve knowledge as well as to provide sound argumentation on effectiveness of site-specific migration barriers mitigation measures, by demonstrating drawbacks and benefits of both solutions and highlighting associated net risks and gains. Presentation and spreading the gained knowledge to relevant authorities, decision-makers and media to get support for future actions; and
    • Production and presentation of a list of Priorities on migration barriers’ mitigation, including proposals for specific actions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia; To be used for discussions with relevant national authorities and stakeholders for actions on mitigation measures, incl what potential financing to be used

Activities:

  • Developing and constructing a fishway/fauna passage over the Olkhova Dam on the Stracha River in Belarus
  • Facilitate knowledge exchange on the removal of barriers for river migration across the Baltic through study tours and workshops
  • Publish a handbook on mitigating barriers to migration for use across the Baltic Sea Region
  • Highlight high-priority dams appropriate for future mitigation, including means to fund ongoing work

Long-Term Effects:

The following outcomes will be achieved as part of the project:

  • Fishway/Fauna Passage at the Olkhovka Dam in western Belarus
  • Handbook on mitigation of barriers to salmonid migration
  • Proposals for future dam mitigation

The following effects will be achieved in the long term:

  • Improved migration and access to spawning habitat for salmonids in BSR rivers
  • Improved collaboration and knowledge exchange across the BSR