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Oceans and fisheries
News article31 August 2021Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Celebrating the cultural heritage of a modern trade: EU supports the Autumn Passages festival

Nessbar, Bulgaria

Fishing activities are a pillar of many a coastal community of Europe. Fishing provides not only livelihoods for those directly involved in the trade and their families, but also for all the related blue economy sectors, from the processing to the sale of seafood, from shipbuilding to production of fishing gear. For those communities, though, fishing is not only an economic factor, but it is also a fundamental cultural heritage contributing to their identity and way of life. In Nessebar, Bulgaria, EU helped to promote this cultural heritage while supporting the well-being of the community.

With 3,200 years of history, Nessebar (Bulgaria) is one of the oldest towns in Europe, and part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The deep connection between fishing and cultural heritage is perfectly represented here, where fishing has been exercised since “the beginning of time”. Nowadays, fishing remains very important for the local community, and Nessebar fishing port harbours over 150 fishing vessels.

To celebrate the contribution of marine fishing in shaping the identity of the area and to preserve its intangible cultural heritage, in 2020 the municipality of Nessebar, together with the Nessebar-Messemvria Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG), the owners of fishing vessels and companies operating in the area have created a festival, “Autumn passages”.

The festival, taking place in October, included demonstrations by fishers to promote the profession; tasting sessions based on local products; a competition to make the best fish soup using traditional recipes onboard local fishing vessels; artisanal exhibitions with the sea and fisheries as the main theme as well as performances by folklore groups presenting the local cultural heritage through music, songs and dances. About 50 fishers were directly involved in the design and general management of the event, and all of them (150) participated in the different activities.

My colleagues and I participated in the fish festival ‘Autumn passages’ ”, says Nikola Vangelov, the owner of the fishing vessel Sveti Nikola 1 and winner of the Best Fish Soup award, “because we wanted to show that fishing is a treasure, which Nessebar can be proud of. I really want more and more people to know that Black Sea fish is among the most delicious and we will continue to work together to promote and encourage the consumption of the Black Sea fish in Nessebar.”

The response was very positive with attendance of more than 5,000 people from five countries (Romania, Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine), who visited the festival to taste the varieties of fish food and to enjoy the rich cultural program.

Through its entertainment and cultural dimension, the festival raises awareness of the area’s fishing activity and recognises the role of the fishers in the area, who go out on their boats every day and work with the sea, in order to bring fresh and healthy food to the local people. It also promotes fishing as a profession: Dimitar Stavrev, one of the oldest fishermen in Nessebar, better known among the locals as Grandpa Mitko Samunika, presented to the youngest guests of the festival specific fishing know-how like knitting of fishing nets and tying a fishing hook. Eventually, as it takes place outside the local tourist peak season, the festival increased off-season tourism, which was also a diversification opportunity for fishers and other communities in Nessebar. A diversification all the more important in an area heavily impacted by COVID-19, due to its economic dependence on tourism.

EU-support enabled purchase of specialised equipment for the festival and conduct of a large-scale advertising and media campaign, which promoted the event as an opportunity to taste fish specialities and offered festivalgoers the opportunity to learn about fishing activities in the area. The contribution of the EU, the municipality’s experience in public events management, the FLAG’s capacity to mobilise the fishing community succeeded in the common goal of revitalising the fishing activities in the area during the autumn, when the lack of tourists creates difficulties for the local economy. Thanks to the tourists attracted by the festival, local fishers and businesses managed to receive extra income at an especially difficult time. The 2021 edition of the festival, in about one month’s time, will last longer – up to 7 days – and include even more activities, such as sporting events, so be sure to visit Nessebar this October!

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Then also check out the August edition of Euronews Ocean: Blue opportunities in the Black Sea

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Publication date
31 August 2021
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries