Salmon returning to river Elbe

Ladislav Mervinsky with a salmon, photo: CTK

Fisherman Ladislav Mervinsky was dumbstruck when he caught a salmon - over a metre in length - in the river Elbe (Labe) close to the Czech-German border in north Bohemia. This is the first time since 1954 that a salmon was caught in the Elbe. Not too long ago, the river was considered one of the dirtiest rivers in Europe. So what's brought the fresh-water fish, known to live in only the cleanest of waters, back to the Elbe? Dita Asiedu reports:

Ladislav Mervinsky with a salmon,  photo: CTK
The Elbe River water management may be battling floods and rising water levels following days of endless rain. But once it has won this fight it will also have another cause for celebration. Years of effort to clean the river water have finally paid off. Proof of that is that the Elbe is - after over five decades - home to the salmon once again. Vaclav Jirasek is the Elbe authority's spokesman:

"It is a clear sign that the water in the Elbe is significantly cleaner. Since its establishment, the International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe, which is devoted to improving the river's quality, has rid the river of some 95% of organic contamination and removed heavy metals such as copper and zinc. But we, together with our German colleagues, have yet to rid the waters of specific chemical materials and introduce protective measures against disaster leakages, such as those we battled last year and this year."

So, thanks to the authority's cleaning measures, the salmon can survive in the river Elbe. But credit for the salmon's presence should be given to Czech fishermen. Some five years ago, the Association of Fishermen planted salmon fingerlings - salmon less than a year old - into the Kamenice River from where the fish travelled into the Elbe.

"In the Czech Republic much attention is given to the phenomenon of the return of the salmon. The attention is not only from the fisherman or from those of us monitoring the quality of water in the Elbe. It's also from those involved in a large project introducing technical modifications. A modern reconstructed fish pass facility on the important dam on the Elbe in the northern city of Usti nad Labem, was put into operation in 2002. This also made it possible for the passage of the salmon. The project is part of a nationwide project of fish sluices that should allow the salmon to get all the way to the Jizera River by 2010."

And for those of you wondering what happened to the 108 centimetre long salmon caught by fisherman Mervinsky - it was released back into the river.