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Saving migratory fish

Whether in scientific monitoring, assistance for management plans, R&D, anti-poaching efforts, etc., Onema is involved in a vast number of efforts that all contribute to preserving and restoring the populations of migratory fish.

Today in France and throughout Europe, a majority of diadromous fish, i.e. those that migrate between fresh and seawater, are in danger. The loss and fragmentation of their habitats, decreases in water quality and overfishing, in conjunction with the effects of climate change, have all combined to reduce the population numbers of diadromous fish. Many species, such as sturgeon and eels, are now in danger of extinction. In light of this situation, many of the stakeholders involved in the management of aquatic environments and notably Onema have established measures to save the eleven species of diadromous fish found in continental France.

R&D for migratory fish

Before it is possible to set up restoration and preservation policies, more knowledge is required and that means R&D work must be launched, notably under Onema management. The agency is one of the major funding entities for the research programmes carried out by INRA, Irstea, MNHN, etc. In order to determine the status of migratory populations and the pressures weighing on them, and to assess management policies, the Gest'Aqua centre, set up jointly by Onema and INRA, works on developing monitoring tools. For example, on the Bresle River, Onema personnel have for the past 30 years been running a scientific monitoring programme the provides chronological data on the characteristics, functioning and changes in salmon and trout stocks.

In a different field, the Ecohydraulic centre in Toulouse (Onema, IMFT and Irstea) addresses ecological continuity in order to facilitate the movement of fish. The centre focusses notably on designing fish passes for migratory fish. Onema also takes part in collective science-advice work with the Grisam1 in France and the ICES2 on the international level.

Technical and financial assistance from Onema

The R&D work helps in preparing and implementing national action plans to protect migratory species. The primary contribution of Onema to the action plans is technical assistance for the Ecology ministry, however the agency also participates in funding certain projects. For the national eel-management plan (PGA), Onema monitors restocking efforts and assists the ministry and the regional environmental agencies in selecting projects. It also assesses PGA results and takes part in drafting the PGA report to the EU commission. The agency also participated in formulating the national strategy for migratory fish that the river basins throughout the country must now implement. Onema continues to develop the strategy for the overseas territories and also works with Irstea on the national plan to restore the European sturgeon.

Work in the field

In the field, Onema personnel are mobilised to enhance our knowledge, diagnose the obstacles blocking movement and enforce regulations, notably via the management committees for migratory fish (COGEPOMI). They check the regulatory compliance of structures (operation of fish passes and minimum discharges) and fight against poaching to ensure the preservation of diadromous species.

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