De Juridische Status van de Europese Steur (Acipenser Sturio) en de Positie van Nederland (The Legal Status of the European Sturgeon (Acipenser Sturio) and the Position of the Netherlands (with English summary)): Een onderzoek in opdracht van ARK Natuurontwikkeling en het Wereldnatuurfonds Nederland

Kees Bastmeijer

Research output: Book/ReportReport

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The European sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) - a fish that can grow to 3.5 metres in length and that has been living on earth since about 200 million years ago - is now one of the most endangered fish species in Europe. According to IUCN’s Red List, the species is now critically endangered. About 150 years ago, the species was found in the catchment areas of all major European rivers and coastal areas, however, almost all sub-populations are now extinct, including the populations of the Rhine, Meuse and Waal. Only one natural sub-population is left in the Gironde delta in France.
This report describes the protected status of the European Sturgeon (Acipenser Sturio) under the Berne Convention, the Bonn Convention, the OSPAR Convention, the Rhine Convention and the EU Habitats Directive. Attention is also paid to relevant recommendations and resolutions adopted within the framework of these legal systems and of direct relevance to the sturgeon (§2). Next, the concrete significance of the legal regimes for the Netherlands is discussed, distinguishing between the current situation prior to reintroduction (§3) and the situation after reintroduction (§4). In doing so, attention is paid to both, species protection law and area protection law. This overview of the legal status and related obligations zooms in on the question of whether there is a legal obligation for the Netherlands to reintroduce the species and what legal requirements and conditions a reintroduction initiative would have to meet (§5). These descriptions are then compiled in concrete answers to the research questions (§6). The report concludes with a brief critical note on the international protection of the European sturgeon and the position of the Dutch government (§7).
The research shows that the European sturgeon is the most endangered and most protected species in Western Europe, however, the discussions also make clear that the species does not yet really benefit from this protected status. In order to protect the European sturgeon from total extinction in the wild and to make it part of its original natural range, action is urgently needed. Much work has already been done to improve water quality and remove migration barriers in rivers such as the Rhine, but because of the natural characteristics of the species (e.g., long life cycle) and the disappearance of almost all sub-populations, long-term restoration efforts through reintroduction and habitat restoration is necessary. At the moment, the efforts of The Netherlands and other Contracting Parties to particularly the Rhine Convention do not seem to be actively aimed at this.
It is hoped that this report may contribute to a better protection and recovery of the European sturgeon. In fact, the species put the system of international, European and national nature conservation law to the test: it gives us to think when even for this species with the best possible legal status under all major legal nature conservation regimes, the efforts of governments would ultimately be limited and made dependent on voluntary commitment by non-governmental organisations.
Original languageDutch
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages83
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019


  • European sturgeon
  • Reintroduction
  • Bern Convention
  • OSPAR Convention
  • Bonn Convention
  • Rhine Convention
  • Habitats Directive
  • eco-restoration
  • critically endangered
  • Netherlands
  • Red List species

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