Otters, which were once found all over Europe, have retreated into isolated populations as their habitat has declined and because of hunting. As a result of improvements to water quality – and thus availability of food – and a hunting ban, a slow re-colonisation by otters is taking place. To encourage them to spread, ecological development of water bodies needs to be encouraged.
In the first phase of the project, an inter-state network of water corridors was developed and designated. In the second phase of the project, since 2007, pilot projects have been realised to improve water quality in various stretches of the catchment system. This is how “blue axes” come into being step by step, as a habitat for otters and a place for people to experience nature – and for tourists to enjoy.Sub-projects are coordinated in a sub-working group of representatives from the Länder. The whole project is coordinated by the otter campaign “Aktion Fischotterschutz”.
The first steps have already been taken in Schleswig-Holstein on the Norderbeste river. Stretches of the river bank have been restored and shrubs planted. On the Luhe in Lower Saxony, river banks have been laid beneath road bridges so that otters can safely pass under roads. The Ilmenau river in Lower Saxony has already been the subject of the first lessons on running water and otters for kindergarten and school classes.
It was a sensation – no exaggeration – when tracks of the shy otter were identified by the Alster river in Hamburg. Here, too, the waterways are part of a project. The transformation of the waters into an environment for nature and mankind to experience is being taken step by step.
The “Blue metropolitan network” is promoted and financed by the development funds of Hamburg- Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg-Lower Saxony, the DBU – German environment foundation, the Hanseatic nature and environment initiative, the Bingo environmental lottery and Aktion Fischotterschutz.