Olympic gold medalist releases 40,000 fish to revitalize the River Inn

Copyright © WWF / Anton Vorauer

WWF Austria's River Ambassador Toni Innauer - a former Olympic gold medalist in ski jumping - has given his support for Austria's living rivers by releasing into the river Inn 40,000 native fish that will help restore the declining fish populations in this important tributary of the Danube.

Released at Pettnau near Innsbruck together with the Tyrolean Fisheries Association and the Innsbruck Fisheries Society, among the endangered fish were the autochthonous Brown Trout, the Grayling and the Danube Salmon, which in Austria can grow to 1,3 meters in length. 

Today only two out of the 33 native fish species remain in the Inn. The proliferation of hydropower plants and river regulation have led to fish losing their traditional spawning grounds. This has meant low reproduction rates and a massive decline in fish stocks. 

Under the restoration programme "The Inn - alive and safe", a joint project of the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture and Environment, the District of Tyrol and WWF, the river Inn is slowly coming back to life with many habitats of threatened species already restored. 

“Our observations show that thanks to our restoration efforts, the Grayling has recovered slightly”, said Christoph Walder, a river expert at WWF Austria. "This demonstrates that some of the recovered habitats are already used as spawning grounds extremely well”.

The recovery of fish habitats will benefit other species as well, such as the beaver and the sandpiper. Richer biodiversity will also add to the recreational value of the area, benefiting local people. 

One of the restored river stretches under "The Inn - alive and safe" programme is located on the Middle Inn, close to Pettnau where the fish were released. But worryingly, this is also the site of the planned hydropower plant Mittlerer Inn. The site was picked after in 2011 WWF successfully prevented the hydropower plant being built at another location on the Inn just 10 kilometres upstream. 

The cost of restoring the Inn already amounts to close to four million Euros. The building of a hydropower plant at Pettnau will have disastrous results for nature. 

“A hydropower plant in this sensitive stretch of the Inn would literally send the current revitalisation project to the bottom. The restoration efforts so far would be completely in vain”, Walder said.

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