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BirdLife International: WOW workshop on fish-farming for conservation - and profit

28-Sep-2009

Photo: Simay Gábor / MMECambridge, 24 September 2009 - Fish-farmers from Hungary, and Romania, will attend a workshop on nature-friendly fish-farming, at Biharugra fishponds organised by MME (BirdLife in Hungary) this week. "The workshop is useful in so many ways”, said Simay Gábor, manager of the Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) project in Hungary. “It is a good opportunity to bring people together to exchange knowledge and experience about the main issues affecting their work in places so important for nature conservation”.

Part of the Körös-Maros National Park, Biharugra is also a Ramsar site, and one of ten demonstration projects for the WOW project, run by BirdLife International and Wetlands International with support from UNOPS, and implemented in Hungary by MME.

Photo: Simay Gábor / MME

Taking place this week, the workshop will be opened by the director of the Körös-Maros National Park, and will cover topics including the role of conservation, sustainability and profitability of extensive fish-farming.

Thanks to the WOW project’s interventions, and following the adoption of ‘nature-friendly’ fish-farming techniques, the company that runs the Biharugra Fishponds has improved its financial performance; from trading at a loss, it has now broken even, and expects to move into profit in the next year. This approach therefore offers enormous potential to safeguard the future of some of the most important wetlands in the region for migrating birds.

"Fish-farming systems in Central-East Europe are key in the conservation of waterbird populations”, said Halmos Gergő – Director of MME. “It is essential to find the right balance between fish-farming and nature conservation, and establish good cooperation of different stakeholders to protect the populations of Eurasian Spoonbill [Platalea leucorodia], Pygmy Cormorant [Phalacrocorax pygmeus] and Ferruginous Duck [Aythya nyroca] in Hungary".

Numbers of breeding Common Tern Sterna hirundo at Biharugra have increased following the extension of existing breeding islands. The breeding populations and autumn gathering numbers of Ferruginous Duck have also increased, reached 2,800 individuals in September 2009. Four observation towers have been constructed, with views over reedbeds to the open water, and nature tourism opportunities are being developed in conjunction with the national park.

Following the construction of purpose-built accommodation for birdwatchers by the national park - the ‘Birdwatcher’s Retreat’ - around 3,000 tourists and also pupils and students, who are interested in nature and birdwatching too, visited Biharugra in the first half of 2009. 

The Biharugra workshop will also explore potential conflicts between conservation and fish-farming, in particular fish predation by Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and, to a lesser extent, Pygmy Cormorant. “While we will learn more about extensive fish-farming, we may also take some steps towards finding a solution for the 'Cormorant issue', which affect most of the fish farmers and their profitability in Hungary”, concluded Simay Gábor. There will also be presentations on this issue from MME, the director of the Hortobágy Fish farm (the biggest in Hungary), and the Ministry of Environment and Water, which include case studies from other European Union Countries.

Waterbirds need an unbroken chain of wetlands to complete their annual life-cycles. Wetlands which also benefit people by providing clean water and opportunities for fishing, agriculture, recreation and tourism. However, despite their importance, wetlands are amongst the world’s most threatened ecosystems.

BirdLife believes migratory waterbirds can only be effectively conserved through international cooperation across the entire flyway. In response to these worrying declines, BirdLife is a key partner in the WOW project, and has launched the Born to Travel Campaign to protect migratory waterbirds, soaring birds and songbirds along the African-Eurasian flyway. Born to Travel is a perfect example of how effectively our unique BirdLife Network meshes together as a united force to take action for conservation.

Source: BirdLife International - click here to read the original article.

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