More than 350 children and young people, members of the Organisation of Bulgarian Scouts, got involved in the cleanup of ten rivers on the territory of Bulgaria. The Scouts’ initiative is in collaboration with WWF Bulgaria, as part of the wildlife organisation’s holistic basin-wide approach to address the variety of threats to fresh water. WWF particularly aims to share their expertise, tools and techniques with the young people, seeing them as future key public sector influencers.
Among the areas for joint activities between the Scouts and WWF were the Danube river in the region of Vidin and where Kamchia river flows into the Black Sea. Both locations are of importance for the “LIFE FOR DANUBE STURGEONS” project as well, especially the latter, where the efforts of the monitoring experts of WWF have been focused lately in attempt to explore further the sturgeon behavior.
This is not the first time when the Bulgarian scouts work with WWF Bulgaria on the topic of sturgeons. Sturgeons were also included in the Earth Hour celebrations earlier this year in March. While the main risk to sturgeons remains overexploitation and illegal trade of sturgeon products, mainly caviar, freshwater pollution is not to be underestimated as a reason for sturgeon decreasing numbers.
The young scouts managed to fill in more than 400 bags of waste altogether. During the pickup of litter, they came across loads of plastic waste – bottles, cans, fags, bags, as well as textiles, Styrofoam and even lorry tires and a dissembled vehicle.
“The most common left-overs from people’s activities were wipes. Maybe people have no idea that these are not degradable, therefore, it is not advisable that we discard them in nature,” was the plea of Vesselina Kavrakova, Country Director of WWF Bulgaria, who led the cleanup at the Iskar river location.
On the territory of Bulgaria there are 325 rivers that are subject to intense industrial human-triggered activity – drying, building up barriers, digging for aggregates or for channeling. Along with pure negligence and disposal of organic and non-organic substances, that leads to river pollution. Moreover, there are 270 hydro-power plants in the Bulgarian rivers that change the rivers’ troughs, speeds and currents, blocking the possibility for migration of dozens of fish and invertebrates, sturgeons being the most affected ones because spawning migration is an integral part of the natural life cycle of all Danube sturgeons. Enclosed sturgeon populations can experience the negative effects of inbreeding and loss of genetic variability. For the past 20 years, 60% of the Danube’s fish populations have gone extinct, while straightening and channelization of the river has resulted in a dramatic loss of 80% of the natural floodplains and wetlands that are part of a river system.