The body that represents anglers across Europe has joined the call to halt hydropower projects that are currently planned on a unique network of glacial wild rivers in East Tyrol, Austria.
The European Anglers Association (EAA) and 41 other organisations have signed a manifesto calling for the establishment of a new nature reserve and the introduction of species protection measures. The region has already been hit by the building of structures which have led to a dramatic collapse of some fish stocks. The EAA says that the whole Isel Basin will be further damaged if seven hydropower plants become a reality. It adds that they will block the main river with barriers, disrupt fish migrations and jeopardise biodiversity.
The Isel and its tributary rivers, the Kailerbach, Tauernbach and Schwarzach form a rare network of wild rivers in the Austrian Alps. They are a haven for many endangered plant species. “It is one of the last places where we can see how natural glacier-shaped Alpine rivers function,” said Dr Susan Muhar, from the University of Nature Resources and Applied Life Sciences,
As the largest free flowing river in Austria, the Isel and its tributaries bring many benefits to the local communities, from recreational fisheries to nature-orientated tourism. It is also said to be of international importance for science. “If we obstruct our rivers, we obstruct our future,” said Renate Hölzl, Chairwoman of the Association for the Protection of the Recreational Landscape of East Tyrol (VEO).
Initiated by Word Wildlife Fund (WWF) Austria and the VEO, the Isel Manifesto encompasses several measures to upgrade the insufficient Natura 2000 protection established for this site in 2015. Most notably, it calls for the construction of power plants to be stopped and for the whole area to be designated as a new nature reserve preserved through a sound protected area management plan.