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Mladica (Hucho hucho), also known as the Huchen or Balkan salmon, is an endemic fish species inhabiting mountainous rivers of the Danube basin. It is the largest representative of the trout family (Salmonidae). The color of its head and back varies from the dark brown to greenish, with slightly pink reflections that can be found in some specimens. The color is related to habitat. During the spawning season it turns shades of copper and purple. The body is covered with black spots. The gill covers are large and can be widely opened. The tail fin is large. Length of adult fish is up to 1.5 meters and a weight of more than 50 kilograms. They spawning season is from March to April, with approximately 10,000-25,000 eggs laid. It reaches the sexual maturity at the age five, reaching the length of when 50-60 cm. It inhabits larger fast mountain rivers with clean, cold water rich in oxygen. Mladica search deep eddies, hidden places under the shore, from where starts at night in it search for food: fish and crabs.

In the Balkans, Mladica inhabits many rivers of Slovenia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia. It is a globally endangered species and protected by the international and European conventions as well by the Serbian Law. The Drina River is the largest river inhabited by mladica where it can reach its maximum size. In Serbia, the most beautiful and largest specimens can be found downstream from Bajina Bašta (Lake Perućac) up to the beginning of Lake Zvornik in the Municipality of Ljubovija. It can be also found downstream from Lake Zvornik all the way up to the confluence point of the Drina River into the Sava River. This fish is considered to be the “Queen of Drina River.”

A whole range of human activity in the last fifty years has led to significant decline in the population numbers of this fish, including a rearrangement of the Drina River’s dams with no places for the fish to pass and the operation of hydropower plants resulting in a sudden change of water levels, destroying the fish eggs during spawning periods. Excessive fishing and poaching as well has led mladica to the edge of its survival. Due to the application of pesticides in agriculture, pollution from coastal settlements and commercial fishponds, mladica ceased to enter into smaller rivers that flow into the Drina River, where it used to spawn naturally. Two massive die-offs in 1993 and 2010 were caused by the uncontrolled discharge of wastewater and toxic substances from nearby industry.

The following year, the first hatchery breeding pools were established in the Spring River at Perućac. There mladica protected by experts in ichthyology, involved in rehabilitating the mladica in the Drina River. Mladica is kept in these pools up to a period of one year, until it reaches a length of about twenty centimeters and then transferred to Drina. Mladica is a globally endangered species and protected by the international and European organizations. In Serbia it has been protected by the "Law on the Protection and Sustainable Use of Fish Fund." For mladica the local fishing season is from March 1 – August 31. Fishing is permitted only during the day light and for individual fish longer than 1 meter.

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Nominated by:Suzana Đorđević-Milošević