Bulgaria can leapfrog EU countries in innovative fisheries payments
The conference organized by WWF and the State Fisheries Agency was attended by Mr Tsvetan Dimitrov, deputy minister at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Mr Yavor Nedev, Executive Director, Executive Agency of Fisheries and Aquacultures, representatives from the private sector and NGOs. Key speakers Dr. Urbanyi from Szent Istvan University, Hungary, and Mrs Hallberg from the Swedish Board of Fisheries shared the experience of their respective countries in developing and implementing public payments for ecosystem services.
“There is a real chance for Bulgaria to leapfrog many EU countries and implement innovative policies for the fisheries and aquaculture sector which move away from stimulating growth in production only, but instead promote the whole array of ecosystem services that provide sustainable income for rural entrepreneurs and communities now and in the future”, said Irene Lucius, Head of Policy at the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.
The Bulgarian government through the State Fisheries Agency is planning to introduce various EU funding schemes which will reward the sustainable use of water resources and fish resources, giving Bulgaria a golden chance to improve the ecological status of its aquatic ecosystems and act as a model for promoting payments for ecosystem services.
Public payments such as aqua-environmental payments paid to the fisheries sector to manage water and fish resources so as to secure ecosystem services such as erosion and flood control, carbon sequestration or biodiversity for the benefit of society as a whole, can be considered a Payment for Ecosystem Services.
Arranging payments for the benefits provided by ecosystems is a way to recognize their value and ensure that these benefits continue well beyond present generations.
“It is commendable that the State Fisheries Agency in Bulgaria is working in partnership with WWF to identify sustainable aqua-environmental payments and in this way promote nature conservation”, Lucius said.
Public payments are being proposed for research & development to encourage innovative approaches in the sector that would lead to reducing its environmental footprint, and for improvement of the natural environment, for example, by giving state aid for the use of environmentally friendly or “green” fish fodder.
The annual revenue from fisheries in Bulgaria is around 14 million Euro, but fisheries are all the more important because they provide employment in regions outside of the big cities.
Guest cook Valeri Neshov who specializes in preparing local, traditional foods presented to the participants “Foods from the waters”, a gourmet tasting focusing on sustainably produced fish and aquacultures. Interest was high, stirring a discussion on market opportunities for nature-friendly fish products.
The national conference is part of the project Promoting Payments for Ecosystem Services and Related Sustainable Financing Schemes in the Danube Basin.
“We must work hard to ensure the good conservation status of our water ecosystems and the Danube basin in particular if we want our rivers to bring us food, clean air and water. The benefits that aquatic ecosystems provide are truly endless”, said Project Manager Maya Todorova.
About the Payments for Ecosystem Services project
Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) is an innovative approach to nature conservation.
Payments for Ecosystem Services is the name given to a variety of arrangements through which the beneficiaries of environmental services, from watershed protection and forest conservation to carbon sequestration and landscape beauty, reward those whose lands provide these services with subsidies or market payments.
Arranging payments for the benefits provided by forests, fertile soils and other natural ecosystems is a way to recognize their value and ensure that these benefits continue well into the future.
Across the world, environmental conservation is critical to secure the flow of ecosystem services that are essential for people and nature. With funding for natural resource management dwindling, a variety of PES schemes have emerged as potential sources of sustainable financing for conservation.
Payments for Ecosystem Services encourage the maintenance of natural ecosystems through environmentally friendly practices that avoid damage for other users of the natural resources. In addition to preserving natural resources, this method improves rural areas and rural lifestyles.
This project is implemented by the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme with the financial support of the UNEP GEF and the European Commission.