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IMPRESS Report Summary

Project ID: 642893
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IMPRESS (Improved production strategies for endangered freshwater species.)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The IMPRESS European Training Network provides a new generation of researchers with the multidisciplinary skills and competences needed to oversee new stocking strategies for Europe’s most important and threatened freshwater fish species (Atlantic salmon, European eel and sturgeons) thus enabling conservation and growth in a sector of significant economic and societal importance. Freshwater fish populations bring many benefits to Europe´s citizens through leisure activities, and enhance rural employment through fishing and tourism.

The main scientific objective of IMPRESS is to improve the methods for rearing of fish that are intended for stocking into the wild. This requires an improved knowledge basis in basic fish biology, improved knowledge on the rearing techniques themselves (train the fish to be more adapted to life in the wild), and lastly it requires a better understanding of how to implement new insight into practice. This last point necessitates new knowledge in the social dimensions of healthy river systems, including how this is regarded among the general public and more specifically among key stakeholders such as hatchery workers and anglers. The different ESRs within IMPRESS focus on one of these three main issues.

The species included in IMPRESS are sentinel species of clean, healthy freshwater ecosystems and of major historical, cultural and economic importance. Over-exploitation and anthropogenic activities have critically endangered wild populations of these fish groups, especially sturgeons. As the main flaw of past stock enhancement is high post-release mortality, the researcher training in IMPRESS builds upon recent scientific advances, especially in fish genomics and enriched hatchery techniques, to develop innovative production regimes resulting in increased survival rates of released fish.

This paradigm shift in stock enhancement strategies will require changes at every level of the production cycle, from broodstock management and gamete quality to hatchery design. New in vitro and -omics technologies is currently being developed to solve current bottlenecks in the production cycle of sturgeons.

IMPRESS is also training young researchers on the social dimensions of this complex issue, including the need to foster closer dialogue with the important stakeholders responsible for national and regional stocking programmes. Utilizing a wide range of different dissemination and communication tools IMPRESS researchers are actively working to increase public awareness on the importance of these key fish species to freshwater biodiversity, and on the major societal benefits of healthy fish populations.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

ESR Training programme: we have organised the IMPRESS kick-off Meeting and Three ESR Training Schools each covering both Scientific and Complementary skills training. Most ESRs have completed at least one Secondment period with another Impress Beneficiary or Partner organization.

ESR Research: Most ESRs are now about halfway into their individual Projects and Scientific results and publications are now beginning to be produced. We expect many more publications to be completed within the next Reporting period. Among the Scientific highlights so far, we can mention New knowledge on the regulation of salmon smoltification, discovery of New neuropeptides regulating Fish puberty, improved rearing techniques for Fish intended for stocking in the wild, sequencing of several sturgeon genomes, entirely New data on stakeholder views on the value of healthy Fish populations and also how to implement New biological knowledge into local hatcheries.

ESR Dissemination: so far, we have produced a children's book in Spanish and English on the life cycle of the eel (text and illustrations/paintings + song), all ESRs have produced a common article in popular science on the purpose of the Impress Project. Also, many ESRs have been active in dissemination local events (detailed in the Periodic Report).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The results so far have progressed beyond state-of-the-art both in terms of basic knowledge on fish reproduction and (salmon) smoltification. Moreover, we have improved our Insight in specific rearing techniques for Fish intended for stocking into the Wild, but also on the social dimenisons of Fish stocking, e.g. how to better communicate With for example local hatchery workers on the practical implementation of New biological knowledge.

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