Europe and Central Asia
28 Sep 2018

#SaveSalina – Bird paradise in peril

By Gui-Xi Young

Developers’ bulldozers are threatening to destroy one of Europe’s most important migratory bird resting and breeding sites – the salt pans of Ulcinj Salina on Montenegro’s southern coast. Sign the petition to #SaveSalina today!

Every year, thousands of birds grace the 15 km2 coastal wetlands of Ulcinj Salina, Montenegro. Like clockwork, they flock in spring and autumn to this important migratory bird haven along the Adriatic flyway. More than 250 different bird species nest, winter or roost here, from the rare Little tern Sternula albifrons to the beloved Greater flamingo Phoeniopterus roseus. Though it is wetland of international importance, the site has not received the official protection status it deserves and desperately needs. For some time now, trouble has been brewing in paradise.

The salt pans of Ulcinj Salina, Montenegro

For nearly a century, Ulcinj Salina was the living, breathing embodiment of how people and nature can thrive side-by-side. Its unique, biodiversity-rich ecosystem is man-made – a happy accident resulting from the huge salt production complex that operated here from the 1920s until 2013. Throughout that time, 40,000 tons of annual salt production ensured that life was good for birds and people alike. Spotted redshanks made their nests, Collared pratincole came to breed and Stone curlews stopped off to rest and refuel. At the same time, the salt works, or ‘salina’, with its precious ‘white gold’ brought employment, prosperity and a huge amount of pride to the local community.

Flamingos of Ulcinj Salina, Montenegro

dirty dealings are afoot here...flamingo breeding areas have been raided and their eggs callously stolen

All of this was brought to an abrupt and tragic halt in 2013 when the salina’s water pumps were turned off – over 500 workers lost their jobs, the abandoned salt pans fell into ruin and, as a result, the site’s fragile ecosystem was thrown into disarray. Nests have been flooded and noticeably fewer birds are coming with each passing year.

Migratory birds over Ulcinj Salina, Montenegro

The backdrop to this has been a twist and turn saga of shady economic interests and backroom politics. Ever since the salina was privatized in 2005 and sold to the investment group Eurofond, its fate has been on the line. From the off, Eurofond showed little inclination to invest in the salina or properly maintain it, and then, in 2008, the company made its agenda clear when it won governmental approval for its plans to drain the salt pans and convert the site into a luxury tourist resort of hotels and golf courses. Amid public outcry, our Montenegrin partner, CZIP, fought tirelessly to block this controversial development, but when the company declared bankruptcy in 2013, salt production was terminated and the future of Ulcinj Salina once more fell into question.


Without salt production”, warns CZIP biologist Aleksandar Perović, “this place will die”. The Montenegrin government has the power to take action and protect this precious part of the country’s national heritage. Yet, years have gone by and nothing has been done.

Salt production at Ulcinj Salina before 2013

There is evidence that dirty dealings are afoot here; the salt pan pumps – essential for maintaining optimal water levels for nesting and foraging birds – have been vandalized and flamingo breeding areas have been raided and their eggs callously stolen.

The #SaveSalina campaign is gathering international support to pressure the Montenegrin government to take action before it is too late. By signing the petition to #SaveSalina, you are putting the power of your name to call on Mr. Duško Marković, Prime Minister of Montenegro:

  • to ensure the timely revitalization of salt production in Ulcinj Salina
  • to secure the protection of Ulcinj Salina under national and international law
  • to safeguard that Ulcinj Salina remains the property of the Montenegrin people and is managed in the best interest of the country's people and nature

This site, once protected and well managed, could support a vibrant economy of salt production and sustainable tourism in which people and nature truly benefit from each other.

This is why BirdLife calls on bird lovers across Europe to #SaveSalina – because in saving Ulcinj Salina we are making a stand for an even bigger ideal, the harmonious coexistence of birds and people. 



The #SaveSalina campaign is a project planned and implemented by BirdLife, together with CZIP, Euronatur, Tour du Valat and Martin Schneider Jacoby Association

Gui-Xi Young - Editor & Campaigns Officer, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia



Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.