This week we presented our thoughts about a more specific and more adequate legal protection regime for “headwaters” to the EC’s Directorate General of Environment in Brussels. It so appeared that we were quite ahead of events… Since the line-up of the new European Commission, the post of Commission for Environment merged with that of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Amongst its priorities is an in-depth evaluation of the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive (the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy, built around the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and a strict system of species protection). This implies that “the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation” will be assessed, probably next year. Also the Water Framework Directive will be subject to revision, although at a later stage. In this respect Member States and stakeholder groups will be consulted, and the public at large as well.

We have expressed our desire to be involved in these consultations. The voice of fish –let alone the trout’s sweet-voiced one!- is rarely heard in Brussels. Therefore we think it is a great opportunity to stand up for one of the finest stakeholders in the ideation. We shall, then and there, continue our plea for the innovative approach we already set forth: think “ecosystems” rather than rigidly describe habitat types. Also we shall suggest adjustments to the species lists in the Habitats Directive’s Annexes. The current ones are believed to not represent the current knowledge of European fauna, and to be far from being representative of the most endangered, vulnerable, rare or endemic species. Especially we shall emphasize the intraspecific diversity of brown trout (subspecies, lineages, and populations), not only because of their scientific relevance, but also for their economic value with link to recreational angling. What’s more, getting indigenous (!) brown trout -being the living indicator for the health of “headwater ecosystems”- listed will help define the limits thereof. We believe this twofold approach, from “the ecosystem” point of view and from that of “the species”, can lead to a more satisfying regime, and we shall labour for it!

At this occasion we also inquired about the new Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species, and the Directive on environmental impact assessments. Rather than going into them in depth we thought it more appropriate to deal with the issues therein in view of the coming revision of the above mentioned framework as a whole.

AEMS Rios con Vida (Spain)
Continental Trout Conservation Fund (Belgium)
Fonds pour la conservation des Rivières Sauvages (France)
Wild Trout Trust (United Kingdom)
World Fish Migration Foundation (The Netherlands)
WWF (Austria)