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Ground-breaking nature-friendly fishpond management initiative creates triple-win outcomes in Hungary


Photo: János Tőgye Biharugra, Hungary, 28 October 2009 - Just several years ago Agropoint Ltd., one of the main fishfarming operations in the Biharugra Fishponds in Hungary, was struggling just to stay afloat.   MME, BirdLife’s Hungarian Partner, has helped this company to restore the Biharugra Fishponds to commercial viability in a nature-friendly manner.

The Biharugra Fishponds occupy a low-lying flood-plain between Körösnagyharsány and Mezõgyán in eastern Hungary, and around 100,000 waterbirds stage or overwinter on them; they are particularly important for Ferruginous Duck, and fishponds in general are among the most important wetlands in the region.

The ponds were at risk of abandonment before MME became involved through the Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) UNEP-GEF African-Eurasian Flyways Project. This would have been detrimental not only for the wider fishpond farming industry across Hungary, which has experienced a rapid decline since the 1990s, but also would have reduced the fishponds’ conservation value to migratory waterbirds.

Photo: Simay Gábor / MME

The first output from this WOW Demonstration Project was a feasibility study which assessed the technical and economic options for introducing a fishpond management system within the context of nature conservation. Next was a comprehensive technical report providing a range of recommendations, such as improved nature-friendly feeding techniques, which are already being adopted by local fish farming enterprises. Meanwhile, a series of abandoned ponds have been reflooded, and artificial nesting islands constructed for the birds.

Furthermore, MME has also been working with the national parks authority to set up an ecotourism route around the ponds, complete with four observation towers which provide remarkable views over the reeds to the open water, and a range of interpretative signs about the birds and their migration routes, and the successful coexistence of fishfarming and conservation.

Photo: János Tőgye

Through the financial support of the Wings Over Wetlands Project, the company running the ponds has progressed from loss-making enterprise to breaking even in less than a year, and is expected to turn a profit in 2010.  The project has produced a triple-win scenario in Biharugra for the fishfarming industry, for nature conservation and for the local economy.

A landmark workshop held last month (September) in Biharugra brought together the conservation community and individuals involved in fishfarming from across the country to demonstrate the value of these pond systems and how the private sector can thrive in partnership with nature conservation.

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