Fish pass for large migratory species to be constructed at Isola Serafini (Po river, Italy)

On December 3rd, at the Isola Serafini near Piacenza (Italy) a recently approved EU-Life-Nature project (LIFE11/NAT/IT188) was presented to invited experts and interested regional media. The project is called CONFLUPO attempting to re-establish the connectivity between Po River sections that are separated by a hydro-electric dam since 1962, The main target species is the Cobice, the Adriatic sturgeon, Acipenser naccarii, a species endemic to the Po basin, its tributaries, and some larger confluences to the Adriatic Sea, which was classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN in 2011. (IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2.)

The project plan considers the construction of two fish passes (fish ladders) with successive resting basins, in both Po River reaches divided by the Isola Serafini dam. Following the construction of the fish pass, it is planned to monitor the effectiveness of the project. Under this framework, also the control alien species (in particular Silurus glanis) will be attempted. Also, the release of juveniles and adult individuals originating from controlled reproduction are part of the comprehensive plan. The project is accompanied by regular dissemination of information on progress and performance, including involvement of the public at large (e.g. educational program for schools and nature clubs). 

The anticipated project duration is 5 years with an overall budget of 7 million ?, including a 3.4 million support from the EU. The partners are the four regions of the Po catchment: Piemonte, Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, the Province of Piacenza and Rovigo as well as the Ministry of Environment , the regional park of the Ticino valley; the Italian Federation of Sport Fishery (Fipsas); the Po Basin Authority and a consulting society (Graia). Also the Swiss Canton Ticino supports the project.

WSCS has been involved since 2003 in the fact finding mission in close connection with the province of Piacenza. Also a joint workshop was organized in Piacenza in 2006 to highlight the urgent need to overcome this barrier. The results of this workshop have been published as special publication of the Society (Passages for Fish: overcoming barriers for large migratory fish,WSCS Special Publication No. 3, 2008). Following the sturgeon fish pass opened 2011 in the Elbe River (near Hamburg, Germany) this will be the second passageway in Europe designed specifically for sturgeons. Since experience in this field is limited in Europe, WSCS is prepared to assist the project with the expertise of its members during the developmental and the monitoring phase, while also facilitating international exchange of experiences in support of the performance of the planned facilities and accompanying programs.