For the first time in history, Allis shad have been released in the Netherlands. As part of the final event of the Green Blue Rhine Alliance, on 1 June AKR Natuurontwikkeling and Sportvisserij Nederland (Dutch Angling Association) released Allis shad fry into the Waal river near Nijmegen. The event emphasised the importance of freely navigable rivers for migratory fish. The Allis shad is one of 16 migratory fish species that need to swim between salt and fresh water to spawn.
The Allis shad (Alosa alosa) is currently a rare migratory fish that is gradually returning to the Rhine river, thanks to a successful reintroduction programme by the Rheinischer Fischereiverband in Germany. Each year, 200,000 to 1 million shad fry are released in the German stretch of the Rhine. Sportvisserij Nederland has supported the project for the past few years as well. The fry originate from the Dordogne river and are supplied by the French MIGADO organisation (MIGrateurs GAronne DOrdogne). Allis shad can grow up to 70 cm, and until the 1920s they were caught in large numbers in the Biesbosch for consumption. In German, these migratory fish are called ‘Maifisch’, because they spawn in May. The fry hatch and mature in June.
Natural population The Netherlands has never made a concerted effort on behalf of these migratory fish, but that has now changed with the release of around 80,000 shad. The Waal river near Nijmegen was chosen because it is near potential maturing areas for the shad. The number of mature Allis shad returning to spawn has grown dramatically over the past few years. Several locations have even observed natural spawning activity, especially in the Main river tributary and near Koblenz on the Rhine. Over the next few years, this French, German and Dutch partnership to restore the Allis shad will continue with the ultimate goal of creating a natural population of Allis shad in the Rhine river watershed.
Mayor of Nijmegen Hubert Bruls and Donné slangen, Director of Nature and Biodiversity at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Safety, release the Allis shad into the Waal. (Photo: Karsten Reiniers)
Water and nature The release programme is part of the European Interreg project Green Blue Rhine Alliance (GBRA), in which 10 German and Dutch partners have combined to promote freely flowing rivers and connections for migratory fish, such as Allis shad, Twait shad, salmon, eel, houting and sturgeon. Over the past few years, a number of organisations such as Sportvisserij Nederland, Rijkswaterstaat East Netherlands, ARK Natuurontwikkeling and De Bastei in Nijmegen have joined forces to work on behalf of water and nature in the Rhine valley between Nijmegen and Düsseldorf. Their focus is on developing knowledge in the area of flood plain construction, and on realising ecological connections for otters and migratory fish. One important aspect of the partnership is the strengthening of professional networks, communications and education. The 10 GBRA partners will continue to work together in the future alongside the countries on the banks of the Rhine and its tributaries: Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.