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Iezer pilot site is located on the Romanian Lower Danube, within the former Danube floodplain in Calarasi County.

Iezer pilot site. © WWF
Here, much of the former mosaics of wetlands and natural channels, reed beds and patches of natural floodplain forest have been lost, but some remain, especially around the highly productive fish ponds. These ponds contribute considerably to the local economy but at the same time also to biodiversity conservation.

Iezer Danube PES project pilot site. rel= © WWF

Iezer fishponds extend over an area of 530 ha and are also protected under Natura 2000. 1000 pelicans from Srebarna Nature Reserve use the site for feeding. It is also an important wintering place for around 29 000 individuals of the Greater white-fronted goose and 5200 individuals of the Red breasted goose, a globally threatened species.

Maintaining, and even increasing the biodiversity around the fish ponds, while at the same time continuing commercial fish production would require upgrading management practices. For example, grass and reed should be cut only after the breeding season. 

Ecosystem services and their financial value

Fish production

2 750 Euro/ha

Biodiversity maintenance (hunting penalties)

50 750 Euro

Carbon sequestration (reed, soil vegetation and trees)

6 050 Euro/year (reeds)

Biomass production (reed)

67 150 Euro/year

The PES scheme

Support for the provision of ecosystem services from these areas is currently available from national payments for extensive fish farming practices (aqua-environmental measures co-financed by the European Fisheries Fund).

However, to recognize the real value of the biodiversity and the costs to the fishpond managers to sustain it, it is necessary to introduce more targeted payments.

That is why the WWF team developed and assessed how much it would cost to shift from pure profit-oriented to nature-responsible aquaculture business, also generating additional income from new opportunities, such as green premiums for nature-friendly aquaculture products or bird-watching tourism development.

A successful demonstration of extensive fish pond management in this pilot can have application for the many other fish ponds along the Lower Danube, in Romania as well as Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine, many of which are valuable wetland areas whose benefits extend far beyond fish production.