Life is going swimmingly for sturgeons relocated to river Narva 13.09

On the initiative of Wildlife Estonia and in cooperation with the State Forest Management Centre (RMK), some hundred thousand young Baltic sturgeons (Acipenser oxyrinchus) have been relocated to the river Narva in the past few years. The latest research and data gathered from fishermen tell us that the sturgeons are doing well.

Countries bordering the Baltic sea are actively attempting to re-introduce sturgeons into its waters after the loss of the native population.

Young sturgeons from Germany have been set into Estonian waters; the fish are being tracked by plastic markings near their dorsal fin or through transmitter devices in their bodies.

“1500 fish with external markings have been released into river Narva along with 25 fish with transmitter devices,” said Meelis Tambets, member of the Wildlife Estonia board.

Tambets says that recent reports from fishermen show that the sturgeons have spread along the Gulf of Finland. Most sightings of marked fish have been reported from Narva Bay, some of the more enterprising specimens have reached Paldiski. Estonian fish have also been spotted from the Finnish coast.

“The sturgeons are feeding and growing well; their weight has increased tenfold over the summer. At the end of August, we received a report about a specimen weighing 1.5kg. The same fish had weighed 145 grams when it was released into the river. Sturgeons will return to the river to reproduce after ten years,” said Tambets.

A marked sturgeon caught in Eru Bay shortly before being released back into the water. Photo by Marek Roostar

Estonia started restoring its sturgeon population in 2013, when the first batch of fish was brought here from Canada. Later, the offspring of German-bred sturgeons have also been relocated to Estonian waters.

A German-based sturgeon reproduction centre takes eggs and roe from adult fish and incubates young fish from them. From there, the fish are passed to other countries for relocating or raising. Wildlife Estonia coordinates communication with German scientists.

“New sturgeons will be brought to Estonia in July. Some of them will be released into the river, some given to RMK’s Põlula Fish Rearing Centre,” said Tambets. Põlula has room to raise up to 20,000 fish in their pools.

“Some of them will be released into the river in the autumn of the same year, some will be raised in Põlula for a year. Younger fish are better able to adapt to the river’s natural habitats, however they are endangered by predators,” said Kunnar Klaas, head of the RMK’s Fish Rearing Department. According to Klaas, older fish have a higher chance of survival and are easier to mark for research.

Receiving information on the sturgeon population from fishermen is incredibly important. “We ask all fishermen who capture a marked sturgeon to report their catch on the number provided on the marking itself or by using the RMK Põlula Fish Rearing Centre’s website at,” said Klaas. The Fish Rearing Centre asks that the length and weight of any lively fish be recorded and the fish returned to the water. If possible, please also take pictures and videos. If the fish has died, please preserve it in a cold environment and call the number provided on the fish. These fish can be used to study their nutrition and growth speed.

Everyone who notifies the Fish Rearing Centre of a marked sturgeon will receive six euros and will be entered into raffles.

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) has confirmed the protection plan for Baltic Sturgeons for the years 2019-2029. The plan for the systematic recovery of fish stock as confirmed by the Minister of the Environment supports the relocation of sturgeons to river Narva, the sturgeon’s former home.

The last free bred sturgeon was caught in Estonian waters in 1996. The specimen was 2.9 meters long and weighed 136 kilograms.

Further information:
Meelis Tambets
Member of the Wildlife Estonia Board
+372 517 6886

Kunnar Klaas
Head of the RMK’s Fish Rearing Department
+372 527 8245