Blue economy of Bulgaria – 4BIZ country report

On 17 March, an online presentation of 4BIZ partner countries’ reports took place. We invite you to read the latest information on the blue economy in Bulgaria, presented by the speakers of the Marine Cluster Bulgaria.

The current situation in the field of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Coastal and Maritime Tourism and Maritime Transport.

According to the EU Blue Economy Report 2022, Bulgarian Blue Economy (established sectors) employs 93 330 people and generates around €1.03 billion in GVA.

The contribution of the Blue Economy to the national economy in terms of jobs is 3.2 % and in GVA 1.9 %, which is a significant decrease compared to 2009 (9.2 % and 4.7 % respectively).

Coastal tourism is by far the largest contributor to Bulgaria’s Blue Economy.

The sector of tourism was among the hardest hit by the COVID19 pandemic due to its dependence on international travel.

Bulgaria expects inbound tourism to achieve 2019 levels by 2025 but the total contribution of tourism to GDP is expected to take longer to recover, returning to pre-pandemic levels by 2025-27. Main trends for the sector are related to digitalisation of the businesses and introducing sustainable alternative forms of tourism.

The development of Maritime transport is largely dependent on the construction and condition of the port infrastructure. From the analysis of the water access conditions in the seaports, it was found that the parameters of the port water areas and the depths in front of the quays of most seaports do not always correspond to the trends in the development of the fleet and are a limiting factor for the size of the ships that can visit the ports.

Further challenges are related to the green transition goals to cut emissions from maritime transport. New opportunities exist for the development of short sea shipping and multimodal transport.

Fish and sea food production in Bulgaria stem primarily from capture fisheries in the Black Sea, and fresh water and marine aquaculture.

Limiting factors for the development of fisheries and aquaculture along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast include: there are not enough areas, that are well protected from waves, such as estuaries, bays strongly cut into the land, etc.; the temperature regime of the Black Sea waters in an annual aspect is also not favourable. These factors negatively affect the production value of marine organisms.

At the same time, favourable conditions exist for the creation of mussel farms along the Bulgarian coast, with the cultivated mussels being characterized by good quality and high yield.

Main challenges in the sector include overfishing and marine pollution.

Untapped opportunities exist in the emerging sectors, like algae production.

Important positive aspects during to the 4BIZ project

While investigating on the current trends of the Blue economy of Bulgaria, several encouraging facts were noted by the researchers despite the unstable economic situation left after the abatement of COVID-19.

There is a positive trend during the last year in growing the activity in maritime transport, aiming at normalizing the container flow as before the pandemic.

In tourism, the recovery in the sector is rapid, with significant increase of domestic sector, with domestic tourists reached a record 4.1 million in 2019. Despite a significant decline in 2020, domestic tourists recovered in 2021, with domestic nights in all means of accommodation reaching 9.6 million, only 0.5% below 2019 levels.

Fisheries and aquaculture: Black Sea catches have remained stable over the last years, while production from aquaculture farms has grown steadily, boosting the number of production centers up to 750 in 2019, of which 25 are Black sea aquaculture farms.

The sectors of the Blue economy can benefit from well-developed funding mechanisms on EU and national level, dedicated to the promotion of blue business. Marine and maritime-related EU-funded projects can be found across various policy areas and are financed by various EU funds. Especially the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, The INTERREG IV B NEXT Black Sea Programme, and the Black Sea Basin ENI CBC provide financial support for actions in the Black Sea region.

The SME survey performed under this research revealed a positive attitude of most of the companies towards developing their business in the sectors of Blue economy, and not only in their traditional sector, but also showing a high interest in developing new activities, for example, in the field of renewable energy sources.

Success stories in the field of blue economy.

Success story 1: The case study represents success story of collaboration between local stakeholders for the development of projects of significant importance to the three sectors – maritime transport, fisheries and aquaculture and tourism.

Municipality of Burgas has implemented several projects for improving the infrastructure of fishery village “Chengene-Skele” and popularizing it as a tourist destination.  As a result of the first project, financed under OP “Regions in growth”, a Cultural-Historical Complex “Chengene Skele” is built where trainings, exhibitions and demonstrations of fishing practices will be held in order to develop maritime culture, attract tourists, create jobs for the local fishing community and more.

The project also envisaged construction and delivery of an electric tourist boat, serving the coastal waters of the Burgas Bay. The vessel is designed and built in Bulgaria by Bulgarian company Galera Ltd., specialized in the design and construction of small eco-friendly solar/electrical vessels.

Success story 2: Solumar is a Bulgarian company, specialised in the production of gas and air filtering solutions. They have developed and successfully tested filters for the industrial use (best fit in plastics, chemical, food and beverage, wood and metal industries), reducing the CO2 emissions by 98%. (Pic. 3, Source: Solumar, company presentation)

The new technology will make it possible for ship-owners and port operators to keep up to the EU requirements and comply with the Agenda 2050 in an efficient and sustainable way – with low acquisition and operational costs.

The solution is by 6-8 times lower in both, the capital and operational expenses compared to the existing solutions such as scrubbers, catalyst, electrification, hydrogen, biofuels and fuel additives.

The main conclusions and recommendations based on the research results showed that SMEs in the blue economy sectors need adequate support to facilitate their development and to deploy the unused potential of the marine resources. This support involves a strong cooperation between academia, research institutions and companies to unlock existing innovation capabilities.

Another lesson learnt is the need to raise awareness and promote blue career opportunities among young people to fill the gap in qualified workforce and new skills in the Blue economy.

Last but not least the companies need to expand their network of business contacts on regional and international levels in order to exchange best practices and to create fruitful business partnerships.

The main needs for effective provision of the next steps of the 4BIZ project implementation.

The collaboration framework, built within 4BIZ project, will bring together blue economy stakeholders in the Black Sea region to address local capacity building needs to boost innovation, digitalisation and investment in the Black Sea Blue Economy.

Successful cooperation of project partners on current issues existing in the Black Sea region will be complemented with a deep-dive in other Sea basins regional experiences to identify more good practices and success stories.

*This Project has received funding from the European Union’s European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) under Grant Agreement 101077576.

**Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.


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