LIFE Project Cover Photo

Restoration of sterlet populations in the Austrian Danube

Reference: LIFE14 NAT/AT/000057 | Acronym: LIFE Sterlet



The sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) is the smallest species of the Danube sturgeons and resides for its whole lifecycle in freshwater without the need to migrate to the Black Sea. Sterlets are still present in very small quantities in the Upper Danube whereas the large anadromous sturgeon species became extinct in the last century due to overfishing and migration barriers. Sturgeons are an indicator of human impact on aquatic ecosystems and the species they host. The Austrian population of the sterlet is threatened with extinction as only very few individuals remain. Their extremely low densities mean that they are at the critical limit for self-reproduction.


The LIFE Sterlet project will apply innovative methods for breeding autochthonous sterlets ahead of releasing them into the wild. The release of genetic autochthonous juvenile sterlets will support the wild population by reaching the required population size for sustainable natural reproduction.

Target areas for the release are the two free-flowing sections of the Austrian Danube in the Wachau and the Danube National Park regions, the latter including the Morava river at the Austro-Slovakian border. These areas are home to suitably diverse habitats that offer the greatest chance of sustaining populations of the sterlet in the long term. Furthermore, the project aims to identify sensitive habitats in the project areas and provide recommendations for their conservation. The LIFE project will complement other LIFE projects that have been carried out on the Austrian Danube and have improved the project areas.

Expected results:

  • Creation of a genetic database including a hatchery and wild stocks;
  • Establishment of a rearing container and hatching of 300 000 eggs per year over five years;
  • Annual release of at least 10 000 juveniles in every project area over five years;
  • Establishment of a population of at least 4 000 reproducing adults in the Danube National Park - Morava system and 2 000 specimens in the Wachau area; and
  • Development of a management plan for protecting identified key habitats, restoring new habitats, managing populations, developing release strategies and evaluating protection status through international participation (DSTF, IGB- Berlin, ISS 8, WSCS).


    Reference: LIFE14 NAT/AT/000057
    Acronym: LIFE Sterlet
    Start Date: 01/09/2015
    End Date: 30/06/2022
    Total Budget: 907,096 €
    EU Contribution: 544,096 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, ViennaInstitute for Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management
    Legal Status: PAT
    Address: Gregor Mendel Str. 33, 1180, Vienna, Österreich
    Contact Person: thomas friedrich
    Tel: 436504507428

    LIFE Project Map



    • Fish


    • endangered species


    • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
    • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)


    • 0 - Non applicable (i.e.species project)


    • Acipenser ruthenus


    Type Code Name
    SPA AT1202000 March-Thaya-Auen
    SPA AT1204000 Donau-Auen östlich von Wien
    SPA AT1205000 Wachau - Jauerling
    SCI AT1205A00 Wachau
    SPA SKCHVU007 Dunajske luhy
    SCI SKUEV0064 Bratislavske luhy
    SCI SKUEV0270 Hrusov
    SCI SKUEV0314 Morava
    SPA AT1204V00 Donau-Auen östlich von Wien


    Name Type
    University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, ViennaInstitute for Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management Coordinator
    IZ(Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences), Slovakia Participant
    MA45(Magistratsabteilung 45- Wiener Gewässer), Austria Participant