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Living conditions of fish are improving in Northwestern Estonian rivers

Nõva river. Photo: Inseneri Ehitus
Nõva river. Photo: Inseneri Ehitus

Directed by the Environmental Board, construction works will begin in Veskijõe, Nõva and Riguldi rivers as well as the Leidisoo main ditch in order to improve passage through the rivers and restore spawning areas for many salmon species.

The rivers in Northwestern Estonia have few fish, but would be suitable for spawning for the brown trout and the river lamprey. The restoration works of the spawning areas are in fact mostly focused on improving the spawning conditions for the brown trout and the river lamprey, but it will also benefit other migratory freshwater fish such as the perch, pike, burbot, roach and ide.

“The brown trout and the river lamprey spawn in rivers, after which young fish move to the sea to feed and come back to the river to spawn once they reach sexual maturity. Their natural density depends on the existence of suitable spawning and growth areas in flowing bodies of water connected to the sea. Unfortunately, many of the suitable areas are currently inaccessible or unsuitable for spawning, for example, migratory spawning is hindered by dams and overgrown rivers,” said Aimar Rakko, Head of the Hunting and Water Biota Office of the Environmental Board.

In Nõva river, the plan is to improve the quality of living and spawning sites of fish on four sections at 570 m in total. In Nõva, spawning pads will be constructed out of rubble and fieldstones of varying size will be introduced to add hiding places for the fish and increase turbulence in the water. In Riguldi river, the estuary will be cleaned of sediment to improve the movement of fish, living and spawning sites will be restored in three sections of the river as well as on one section of the Leidissoo main ditch. In Veskijõe, the quality of the spawning area will be improved by creating spawning beds on the lower course of the river and the riverbed is cleaned of sediment. In addition, beaver dams which hinder migration of fish will be removed on all rivers.

“These works will improve access to spawning sites for the brown trout and the number of areas with the right quality will increase by about 3-5 times compared to the present. For Nõva river for example, the reproduction potential for brown trout will be increased by nearly 110 seabound fish as a result of the actions, from the current 180 specimens to nearly 300 fish per year. The expected growth of fish population is roughly in the same proportion for Riguldi and Veskijõe rivers – the number of potential young fish will be 140 and 65 per year, respectively,” Rakko explained. In addition to the brown trout, the spawning conditions of the river lamprey, which needs a similar spawning area, will improve as well.

The total cost of restoration works of the rivers is 124,782 euros and it will be funded with the means of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the period 2014-2020. The works will begin in the upcoming months and should be completed by mid-October.

In addition to construction works, it is planned to also carry out various other projects for improving the dwelling conditions of fish within the scope of the same measure. Preliminary surveys are carried out in the first stage to determine the specific needs for restoring spawning sites and the construction volumes. Construction and design works will begin in 2019. The list of first round projects to be carried out by the Environmental Board can be found on the website of the Environmental Board.

In addition, the Environmental Board will draw up an action plan to plan specific activities for achieving and maintaining the good condition of Estonian rivers, lakes, coastal water and the sea.

More information:
Aimar Rakko
Head of the Hunting and Water Biota Office of the Environmental Board
telephone: 5306 9104

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