On 29 June – when the Danube Day is being celebrated in the 14 river basin countries – the project partners of LIFE for Danube Sturgeons organized and participated in events aimed to put sturgeons on focus in several key fishing communities. While the celebrations were scaled down locally in Serbia, Bulgaria and Ukraine, the expected impact is to engage further the fishermen and their families in the project’s activities such as trainings, development of alternative income solutions and business plans and most importantly – to highlight again the significance of saving those majestic creatures and how that would impact the Danube river’s overall waters condition.
Serbia, Prahovo (Negotin municipality)
WWF-Serbia chose to celebrate in Pavle Ilić Veljko Primary School in Prahovo where children from families that are traditionally engaged with fishing study. School children are one of the sub-target groups of the project LIFE for Danube Sturgeons due to their indirect engagement with the sturgeons’ fate. Through role play, children learned about the biology of sturgeon, the migration route from the Black Sea up the river all the way to Germany, and the threats to sturgeon survival (overfishing, obstruction of migratory routes, gravel extraction and pollution). The overall objective of the event was to bring up the issue of the declining numbers of sturgeons and to stimulate young generations to have those sorts of conversations with their families, hoping that the whole attitude towards saving endangered species could be changed, especially in low income communities.
After the game, the WWF team presented the project and screened two movies about sturgeon: “Saving the Lords of the Danube” and “The Mysterious Giants of the Danube”.
The Municipality of Belene usually hosts the events for the Danube Day in Bulgaria and this year was no exception. As WWF-Bulgaria works closely with the local authorities and organisations on several projects co-funded by the EU, the majority of the activities were in line with two ongoing Danube projects – LENA (Local Economy and Nature Conservation in the Danube Region) and LIFE for Danube Sturgeons.
The festivities were spread throughout three consecutive days – from 29 June to 1 July, including children’s games, cycling, music performances, fishing and cooking competitions. The main venue was the infocentre of Belene where a sturgeon exhibition is on display all year round. During the Danube Day’s events more people from fishing and local communities were encouraged to get to familiarise themselves with the threats to sturgeon and the possible solutions. Similarly to Serbia, WWF focused on educational games for children in attempt to engage entire families in saving the Danube sturgeons.
The WWF team in Ukraine supported by the Danube Biosphere Reserve and local authorities celebrated the Danube Day together with the residents of Vylkove, a village also known as the “Ukrainian Venice”. This year, the Danube Day in Vylkove had a special focus on sturgeons – the unique creatures that outlived dinosaurs and continue to inhabit the second longest river in Europe.
The Danube Day’s celebration at St. Nicholas’ Square included performances by local dance and vocal children bands, interactive games for the smallest visitors of the event, and a special photo exhibition of the rich fauna of the Danube (sturgeons, pelicans, swamp turtles, herons) that was presented by the ichthyologist and expert of WWF in Ukraine – Inna Goch. Among the most attractive activities was the drawing on pavement competition featuring a 4.5-meter Beluga, that was outlined in advance for a live demonstration of the natural size of Beluga Sturgeon.
“It was important for us to involve as much as possible the community of Vylkove in the celebration of the Danube Day,” said the WWF in Ukraine project coordinator Natalia Gozak. “This is not just a festival, it`s a good opportunity to draw people’s attention to the need to protect Danube sturgeons. We sincerely hope that it’s not too long until these unique creatures will fill the river again, and local fishermen, like their own grandparents, will be able to boast about the impressive size of Beluga Sturgeon. And this goal is achievable only through joint efforts, it cannot be done without support from the local communities”.