Europe and Central Asia
29 Oct 2014

Ulcinj Salina in Montenegro – from potential disaster to sustainable tourism

Ulcinj Salina with a a newly-constructed birdwatching tower; rather than the construction of a hotel complex
By Shaun Hurrell

When watching this video it is hard to believe that Ulcinj Salina was set to be drained and converted into a complex of hotels and golf courses. This beautiful, salty habitat found in coastal Montenegro, is one of the most interesting and important sites for migratory waterbirds in the Mediterranean. CZIP (Center for Protection and Research of Birds; BirdLife in Montenegro) wanted it to keep it that way, so with the support of BirdLife International and other conservation organisations they succeeded in persuading the government to protect the site from development – at least for the next 10 years.

This was a significant victory for nature conservation, not only for Montenegro, but also at a global level, considering that the Ulcinj Salina Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), with its 250 registered bird species, represents the main nesting, wintering, and roosting site for birds passing along the migration route on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. However, more is needed to be done to secure the future of the salina, and CZIP saw the answer lay with eco-tourism, via support from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF).

Borut Rubinic, CEPF Regional Implementation Team Programme Officer for the Balkans (based at BirdLife’s Slovenian Partner DOPPS), helped CZIP evolve from a purely voluntary organisation to a professional NGO with nine permanent staff. With this new status, CZIP successfully applied for a CEPF grant to promote alternative and more sustainable livelihoods at Ulcinj Salina. The project proposal took its inspiration from Seeovlje Salina Nature Park in Slovenia, which successfully combines nature and culture tourism with the manufacture of a range of luxury, traditionally-made, salt-based goods.

Cyclist in front of the new birdwatching tower</br>at Ulcinj Salina, Euro Birdwatch Day</br>Photo: CZIP

As you watch paddling flamingos at the lake shore, the backdrop of the old saltworks – now economically unviable – is a reminder of its potential disastrous conversion to a decadent tourist complex. Now CZIP’s CEPF project is well underway and promoting eco-tourism at the salina as much as possible – hence the new promotional video and this new website.

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With museum renovations, birdwatching towers, a gift shop and access bridges in place, CZIP recently held an event as part of European Birdwatching Day. For the first time in Montenegro, local guides, trained as part of the project, led nature walks along ecological and educational trails and shared with over 100 participants Ulcinj Salina’s rich biodiversity and ecotourism potential.

The event was opened by the French Ambassador Her Excellency Ms. Véronique Brumeaux and made mainstream national television. The CZIP team also had the opportunity to discuss with VIP ambassadors the problems of Ulcinj Salina and its importance for the Adriatic flyway, which after follow-up meetings will help lead to its protection.

After watching the video, I think you will agree the site will be better as a nature and culture tourism destination than a disastrous development.

BirdLife International - including its Middle East office and the BirdLife Partners DOPPS/BirdLife Slovenia and LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, BirdLife in France) - is providing the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (CEPF Med). Find out more at

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Conservation International (CI), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at

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.