The development of the PANEUAP has been an open process from the very beginning, bringing together the voices of various different actors from public authorities to NGOs and scientific institutions. These stakeholders have had appointed opportunities to comment and provide insight for the plan along the way.
Important is also the way the Action Plan has come about in the first place.
“Even the simple fact that we as civil society can bring such a proposal to the Bern Convention, for the states to discuss and decide on, shows that this is a thoroughly democratic process,” Striebel says.
At the national and regional levels, it’s also essential to involve all the river users for the implementation of the Action Plan to succeed, says WCSC’s Jörn Geßner. “In Germany we did a roundtable involving fisheries, inland navigation, local stakeholders, anglers, and so on, to make sure that they understood what we were planning to do, and to gather their support for the necessary activities. The same story goes for France and the Netherlands, for instance.”
The implementation of the Action Plan is still taking its first steps. By 2021, the European Union and the Council of Europe are expected to establish a Group of Experts, including Bern Convention representatives of national environment ministries as well as international and national civil society organisations and experts acting for the conservation of sturgeons. This team will set up and oversee coordinated mechanisms to implement the plan across Europe, while increasing the awareness, capacity and ownership of relevant stakeholders.
A pitstop for evaluating the overall effectiveness of the Action Plan has been planned for 2024, five years after the beginning of the implementation. However, countries involved are encouraged to take the PANEUAP as a blueprint for their respective plans and name institutions responsible for coordinating actions in a certain time frame on the national level.
Important progress has already been made on the national level. In the Netherlands and Ukraine, new national sturgeon action plans have recently been approved, in France an existing plan is under revision, and in Romania discussions regarding a national plan have started.
While there is reason to be hopeful, noticeable changes will take time to manifest, says Geßner: “The smaller sturgeon species mature at an age of six to eight years, the largest species take 15 to 20 years for first maturation. It’s almost like forestry: you put the seedlings in, and then you have to wait for almost a generation in order to see whether that’s effective or not.”