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Endangered Sturgeon–A Fish Once So Popular a King Declared Them ‘Royal’–Making a Comeback in UK
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Endangered Sturgeon–A Fish Once So Popular a King Declared Them ‘Royal’–Making a Comeback in UK

‘Royal Sturgeon’ caught in the Hundred Foot River at Oxlode, Pymoor in 1906 – SWNS

A giant armor-plated fish once so popular King Edward II declared it ‘royal’ is being reintroduced to British waters.

Conservationists are bringing back the critically-endangered native sturgeon decades after the ancient species was nearly wiped from UK rivers.

A team led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has launched the UK Sturgeon Conservation Strategy and Action Plan—a science-based guide developed by experts that outlines the actions needed to recover numbers of both the Atlantic and European sturgeons in the UK.

Growing up to 16 feet in length (5m), the fish has long whisker-like barbels and diamond-shaped armored plates along their backs.

“Sturgeons look like they’ve swum straight out of a paleontologist’s textbook,” said Hannah McCormick, ZSL’s conservation project officer for estuaries and wetlands.

“These impressive and ancient animals were once common in UK rivers and along our coastline. Fast-forward 700 years, and sturgeons have all but disappeared from our waters, after dam construction in rivers blocking their migration routes and overfishing caused numbers to plummet in the latter half of the 20th century.”

This UK-wide plan follows successful conservation in France and Germany that helped save European sturgeons from the brink of extinction. In 2020, juvenile sturgeon of two different species, both of which were feared extinct, were spotted in a river in the Republic of Georgia.

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SWNS

After increased sightings in British waters. the team will be identifying essential habitats, restoring migratory passages, and trying to keep the fish from being accidentally caught by fishermen.

“These ancient fish outlived the dinosaurs and in fact still closely resemble their ancestors, which swam in Earth’s seas and rivers 100 million years ago,” McCormick said.

Both European and Atlantic sturgeons are fully migratory species—beginning their lives in rivers, before traveling out to the sea.

Once at sea they live most of their 60-year-long lives in coastal and marine waters, only returning to freshwater as adults every few years to reproduce.

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1100-pound sturgeon caught
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Jenny Murray, Blue Marine Foundation’s senior restoration projects manager, said: “The development of this Action Plan has been an exciting first step that contributes to the European efforts of restoring sturgeons.

The public can support the sturgeon’s return by raising awareness of this beautiful species and reporting any sightings to UK’s Save the Sturgeon website.

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