Emil Milev has been working as a ship repair factory employee, but has always dreamed of building his own fishing fleet to operate in the Black Sea. Thanks to his own efforts and those of his family, he has founded the Lavrak Ltd, a fishery enterprise based in Varna, Bulgaria, and he has become one of the most active fishermen in the area, exploiting the Black Sea stocks in a sustainable manner for more than 10 years. The EU has recently helped him to scale up his business and make it more sustainable still.
Fishing is an effort-intensive, challenging job, as Emil underlines:
The fishing day for us is quite long. We spend 15 hours at sea before we can go ashore. We stay at the pier another 2 hours while we unload the fish, pack it, and load it in the buses. Actually, we have 4 hours left to sleep, no more.
Lavrak Ltd succeeds thanks to the collective efforts of the whole Milev family. While Emil works as vessels’ captain, concentrating on the actual fishing, his wife Dimitrina is in charge of registering and describing the catch, and then selling it to customers and companies, and their two older daughters help them with administrative, transport and communication tasks.
This family business approach, with shared tasks and responsibilities, along with a strong commitment and vision for the fishing enterprise has allowed the Lavrak Company to modernise and expand, with the support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Up to the beginning of 2019, the two vessels belonging to the company were built with the materials available on the market 15 years ago. The thermal insulation on their refrigeration systems was not very good, resulting in low energy and fuel efficiency. In addition, for transport Lavrak Ltd had only two old vehicles whose limited refrigeration capacity prevented him from making big deliveries, especially abroad. All these obstacles led to missed opportunities for the company. Emil applied for EMFF funding to modernise his two vessels, Lavrak (“Seabass”) and Lefer (“Bluefish”), and to buy a modern transport vehicle. EU support has allowed the company to acquire equipment to sort, shock-cool and store fish directly on board. The refrigeration rooms and fish holds were modernised and fitted with energy-efficient insulation. Lavrak Ltd now has all the facilities it needs to process fish immediately after capture, so increasing the market value and reducing significantly the catch discards. The purchase of a new specially designed refrigerated transport vehicle has further increased product quality and prolonged the shelf life of the catches, improving the whole chain of fisheries operations from catch to plate.
The company is now a successful fishery operator in the Black Sea, with exports to Bulgaria’s neighbour countries Romania, Turkey and Greece, supplying the markets with fresh quality catches of turbot, red mullet, whelk (Rapana Venosa), Black Sea dogfish, sprat and others.
The flexibility of the family business model has allowed the successful scale-up of the enterprise and the achievement of the main goal: an economically viable and competitive fishery fleet.
The EU support has then achieved a twofold positive outcome: the modernisation of the equipment had a direct benefit for the company, allowing Emil and his family to realise their vision. At the same time, it has also improved the environmental and energy efficiency of Lavrak Ltd operations, thus supporting the objectives of the EU common fisheries policy; moreover, Lavrak Ltd has compounded these objectives by engaging in sustainable fisheries actions like protection of endangered species, such as the Black Sea sturgeon.
Did you like this story?
Then also check out the July edition of Euronews Ocean episode “Working conditions in fisheries and aquaculture”
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- 26 Juli 2021
- Generaldirektoratet for Maritime Anliggender og Fiskeri