Alburnus sarmaticus 

Scope: Global & Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Cypriniformes Cyprinidae

Scientific Name: Alburnus sarmaticus Freyhof & Kottelat, 2007
Taxonomic Notes: Published morphological data suggest that two species of shemayas were possibly present in the lower Danube until about 1940. One of them (Alburnus danubicus) is now Extinct.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B2ab(v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2010-03-05
Assessor(s): Freyhof, J.
Reviewer(s): Kottelat, M. & Smith, K.
Contributor(s): Kottelat, M.
This species is now restricted to only two populations: one at the estuary of the Bug and Dniepr with a single spawning site in each drainage (area of occupancy less than 10 km²); and one in the Danube (in the Kolpa in Slovenia and Croatia) where it is almost extirpated. During the early and middle 20th century, all populations sharply declined as they were no longer able to reach spawning sites because of dams. Now the species successfully spawns below dams but illegal fishing at these new spawning sites could threaten the species, the impact of fishing and the level of spawning is currently unknown.

For the European Union 27 assessment, this species is Critically Endangered (CR B2ab(v)). Within the European Union (EU), it is now known from only one very small population in the Kolpa in Slovenia and Croatia, and very few isolated records (severely fragmented) from Hungary and Romania. It is almost extirpated in this region and is threatened by dam construction and illegal overfishing. The species' area of occupancy in the EU is less than 10 km².
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

This fish occurs in the Black Sea basin in the lower and middle course of the Danube, lower Dniepr and South Bug, and coastal lakes. It is very rare in the Danube.

Countries occurrence:
Croatia; Slovenia; Ukraine
Possibly extinct:
Hungary; Romania
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Population size and trends are unknown.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

This species occupies the lower and middle parts of rivers, estuaries, coastal lakes and adjacent areas of seas where salinity is lowered by large inflow of freshwater. It tolerates salinities up to 12%. Spawning occurs in riffles with heavy current on gravel bottom, today mostly below dams.

The species usually has semi-anadromous populations. The Danube has only a residual population left. It spawns for the first time at 2–4 years, females one year later than males. It starts entering rivers in autumn and moves upstream during winter and/or spring; spawning occurs in May–July at 18–26°C. Eggs are sticky and adhere to pebbles or stones. Adults return to the sea, lakes or estuaries soon after spawning to forage. Young juveniles move downstream in the autumn of the same year or the following spring. Larvae and young juveniles feed on zooplankton, algae and insect larvae, while adults mainly feed on planktonic crustaceans, terrestrial insects, and small fish. This species regularly hybridizes with Squalius cephalus.

Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It is harvested for human consumption.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

The reason for the collapse of the species in the Danube is unknown. Dams have blocked most spawning sites for this species, but it now spawns below the dams in the Ukraine. Illegal fishing at new spawning sites below the dams could threaten the future survival of this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: A detailed action plan for this species within the EU is urgently needed.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.4. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Brackish/Saline Lagoons/Marine Lakes
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.5. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Freshwater Lakes
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Freyhof, J. and Kottelat, M. 2007. Review of the Alburnus mento species group with description of two new species (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 18.

IUCN. 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2011.1). Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2017).

Kottelat, M. and Freyhof, J. 2007. Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes. Publications Kottelat, Cornol, Switzerland.

Citation: Freyhof, J. 2011. Alburnus sarmaticus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T135590A4154782. . Downloaded on 14 August 2018.
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