As one of the most endangered group of species on the planet, sturgeon populations have plummeted in the last century due to river pollution, loss of habitat and poaching. Vital in maintaining freshwater ecosystem structures and central to many of the cultures along the rivers they inhabit, time is running out to save them in Europe and Asia. Matt Spencer is cycling across Eurasia to highlight the issues. You can follow his wonderful journey at One Average Spoke.
“Being rather odd, elusive and a penchant for strange foods, sturgeon have always been a relatable animal for me. (un)Surprisingly this is the first ever long-distanced cycle to promote awareness for sturgeon conservation with all charitable money raised will go to Fauna and Flora International’s Caucasus sturgeon programme. In doing so I will travel approximately 11,000km, across extreme deserts and mountainous passes all to highlight the peril these iconic species are facing"
Matt had previously spent time chasing sturgeon in Georgia and it was a time of huge personal development for him, that has led to this adventurous project which he approached the Alpkit Foundation about.
“That time opened my eyes to the human aspect of conservation and the mosaic of different cultures and communities that can exist along a river. From a village where the national language had yet to reach, to another town where poachers hid in plain sight, no two people or places were alike. This is important to bear in mind when what you are trying to achieve might impact others. The old saying goes ‘ fisheries management is people management, nothing to do with the fish’…and I would imagine this logic applies to more than just fish.”
Starting in London and finishing in Central Asia, Matt will be cycling across Eurasia to the last sturgeon spawning sites in order to raise awareness of their decline and the local charities helping to protect them. It’s a real adventure driven by a deep passion.
“Sturgeon are enigmatic of problems facing freshwater ecosystems, suffering from a fate that besets many other species that they co-exist alongside: overfishing, pollution, abstraction, habitat fragmentation and poaching are a few issue to name. I hope that by highlighting the plight of sturgeon I will awaken readers to the wholesale decline that freshwater species have experienced in the past 50 years and urge everyone to do more research and support however you can, be that volunteering with the local Wildlife Trust or building a pond in your garden (these are literally the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden!).
I hope that one of the big outputs of this adventure will be greater recognition of them as a group of species and their sad demise. They represent more than just an animal that I am clearly quite fond of; they represent a first foray into conservation, a moment where what I wanted to do as a ‘career’ made sense and an opportunity to make a mark on the world and try to make a difference.”
Cycling unsupported means that Matt can keep costs extremely low and a grant of £250 helped him set up his bike ready for the journey. Matt has been on the road now for 3 months and it’s really wonderful to hear the passion that Matt has for not only the fish, but the project as a whole. Seeking to raise awareness of the plight of sturgeon and increasing exposure for local communities and eNGOs who are working to protect some of the last wild rivers on earth.
“Many of these groups, and the work they do, are often not heard of which is an issue that is particularly acute for Central Asia. Through greater exposure, I hope to change that narrative highlighting the conservation activities these local communities undertake in the hope it will galvanise others to protect their local wildlife and funding can be mobilised to further some of their great work.
As someone with a body that would fail most MOTs (thanks ACLs) I am also intrigued to see how my body will cope and adapt to such a change in lifestyle. Although not enthusiastic, my physio has given me to ok to attempt the expedition and we shall just have to see how this all plays out….stay tuned.”
Read more about the Flora & Fauna International Saving the last sturgeon project.