LIFEEL - Urgent measures in the Eastern Mediterranean for the long-term conservation of endangered European eel

Project objectives

The overall objective of the project is the long-term conservation of European eel.

The general objective (GO) of LIFEEL is to assure a concrete support for the long-term conservation of the eel population of the Adriatic stock, with the development of concrete conservation actions and governance measures through the achievement of the following specific objectives (SO) in Italy (IT) and/or Greece (GR):

  •  Against Threat 1 (fishery and aquaculture pressure) LIFEEL aims at the SO1: to increase escapement of the "best" silver eels, reducing as close to zero as possible their mortality by fishing and aquaculture, so that they can carry out the entire life cycle in Sargasso Sea, contributing to the species conservation. 

  Against the same threat, LIFEEL aims at SO2: to safeguard the wild stocks of juveniles from the threat of fishery for aquaculture purposes, by artificial reproduction and breeding. 

  • Against Threat 2 (habitat fragmentation) SO3: to restore the access to areas vocational to the species, for its growth in the wild freshwaters, so that juveniles and adults can freely move within the hydrographic network until sexual maturation. 
  • Against Threat 3 (Turbine mortality) SO4: to reduce the lethal impact of turbines of hydroelectric plants on eels descending waterways, with the construction of a demonstrative light barrier system and establishment in the project area of guidelines for hydroelectric producers with a participatory approach.In addition to these specific operative objectives, shared by all the Eel Management Plans, LIFEEL adds another specific objective of paramount importance for the long-term conservation of the species, which is the SO5: information, awareness and involvement of stakeholders and the general public, addressed against Threat 6 (lack of information and sensitivity to the problem of eel conservation), for the key role of public consensus and stakeholders participation in a successful conservation action.

  

Actions and means involved

The project’s Specific Objectives (SO) will be reached through actions developed in Italy (IT) and/or Greece (GR):

SO1: to increase release of "best" silver eels, reducing near to zero their mortality by fishing and aquaculture

SO2: safeguard the wild stock of juveniles from the threat of fishery for aquaculture.

SO3: restoring the access to areas vocational to the species. In this action, a dual approach will be used:

a) direct intervention on the habitat. In Italy the priority barrier to be mitigated for elvers migration upstream was identified in the “Defragmentation Plan of Po river basin” developed within LIFE ConFluPo

The data show that the fish pass realized within ConFluPo at Isola Serafini dam, first river barrier from the delta, is suitable for migration adult and sub-adult eels, but not for migrating glass eels/elvers, which need a specific facility; the same need is observed in three hydraulic facilities in the Delta area.

LIFEEL will design and build 10 glass eels/elvers specific facilities on Po, Panaro, Secchia Rivers and in three branches of the Po Delta, reopening to the upstream migration to more than 1,000 linear km river stretch.

In Greece the building of a fish ladder on Nestos River.

b) planning for future actions. An eel specific river basin plan of defragmentation will be drafted in favor of upstream migration of glass eels/elvers and it’ll complete the measures for eel conservation defined and adopted by the local competent Authorities in the project area.

SO4: reduction of the lethal impact of turbines of hydroelectric plants, following a dual approach:

Demonstrative intervention of installation at Creva Hydropower plant, on Tresa River of a deterrent device to prevent the entry into turbines of downstream migrating silver eels will be designed, performed and monitored through the release of mature breeders fitted with sonar tag.

Drafting of the first “Guidelines for the compliance of hydro structures with downstream migration of silver eels” for Po basin, involving the hydropower farms that will sign a commitment to apply the document on their new concessions and to disseminate them within hydropower sector, networking with other European research groups and their promotion in the Fishery Consult at watershed-scale.

 

SO5: information, awareness and involvement of stakeholders and the general public, actions will be calibrated in project areas according to the target audience (stakeholders, research groups, students, local populations, internet and social users), to assure the best dissemination and long term sustainability.

The project will be managed by the steering committee and by partners’ internal structures with actions; the impact of LIFEEL at environmental, territorial and socio-economic levels will be monitored.

 

The University of Ferrara is involved in SO1, SO3, SO4 and SO5 and, in specific, within SO1 and SO3, responsible of the action for the silver eels release from the lagoons of the Po delta, to increase the reproductive migration to the Sargasso Sea, and in designing and monitoring the effectiveness of the several interventions performed in the Po basin to increase elvers' upstream migration and silver eel's downstream reproductive migration.

 

Project details

Scientific responsability: Giuseppe Castaldelli

 Funding source: LIFE 2014-2020

Call: LIFE19 NAT/IT

Start date 01/10/2020 - end date 31/12/2024

Total cost: 5.428.447 €

EU contribution: 3.114.322 €

EU contribution to UniFe: 444.257 €

Participants

  • Regione Lombardia - DG Agricoltura, Coordinator (Italy)
  • Hellenic Agricultural Organisation "Demeter" - Fisheries Research Institute (Greece)
  • G.R.A.I.A  srl - Gestione e Ricerca Ambientale Ittica Acque (Italy)
  • Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino (Italy)
  • Ente di Gestione per i Parchi e la Biodiversità - Delta del Po (Italy)
  • Università di Bologna - Dipartimento di Scienze Mediche Veterinarie (Italy)