The fishing association Amur-Nikopol applied for funding to develop the first of its kind boat tourism in the Danube, at the town of Nikopol, in Bulgaria. The application was developed together with WWF, as part of the project “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons”. The idea of the proposal is to use the skills, equipment and qualification of the fishermen in Nikopol to develop a hospitality business, which would secure them an income, alternative to fishing.
Nikopol is economically undeveloped and suffers from macroeconomic setbacks such as emigration, unemployment and unfavourable demographic trends – typical for much of Northern Bulgaria. Its rich historical heritage and fabulous natural resources (the Danube River, Nikopol’s Plateau and a group of islands that fall under the protection of Nature Park “Persina”) have been overlooked so far as a source of economic prosperity and sustainable living. Assisting fishermen communities to locate and use subsidies and acquire new knowledge and qualifications in order to start alternative entrepreneurial initiatives to fishing will contribute to their financial stability and that in turn will limit illegal sturgeon catching.
If the project proposal receives the necessary funding, fishermen will organise a variety of tourist activities, targeting predominantly guests from the region. The services they plan to offer include boat tours to the Danube islands in the area, fishing demonstrations and small picnics. The fishermen will be trained in hospitality approaches, their boats will receive the necessary health and safety upgrades and the activities will have a continuous marketing and advertising support.
With WWF support, the fishing association developed a business plan and integrated it with another initiative from Nikopol to create a well-rounded proposal to encourage sustainable tourism. The proposal was submitted for funding with America for Bulgaria foundation and the final decision is expected in the beginning of 2021. However, due to the current pandemic and the nature of the proposed activities, it is possible that the process will be postponed. It is still a very important step towards developing better economic opportunities for fishing communities, so their dependency on fishing and the temptation to illegally catch precious endangered species like sturgeons, is significantly lessened.