GNF - 4th Project Meeting in Hungary

Agriculture and Fisheries at Lake Area




Topic of the Meeting:

Lake Balaton, Hungary

22 - 26 April 2013

Agriculture and Fisheries at Lake Area


The Lake Balaton located on the Western part of Carpatians Basin, with the surface area of 594 square kilometers is the largest freshwater lake in Central-and Eastern Europe. It is a shallow lake, its average depth is 3,2 meters and the water level is regulated by a lock at Siófok. The river catchment area of the lake is 5,775 square kilometers, with the main tributary, River Zala has formed a large wetland called Kis-Balaton. Both Lake Balaton and Kis-Balaton have been protected by Ramsar Convention since 1979. In 1997, the Balaton Uplands National Park was established. With an area of more than 600 square kilometers the national park comprises most of the Northern watershed, as well the Kis-Balaton wetland. Flora and fauna are very rich and diverse in this area.


Lake Balaton is an important recreation area. Up to 18 million tourists visit the lake region each year.




There are mostly small and medium size farms in this area. From the geographic and climatic character of this area mainly vineyards and orchards are specific here. The Western and the Northern parts of Lake Balaton belong to the Balaton Uplands national Park and where agriculture husbandries are regulated. Bio farms, organic farms are very accepted here.




Fisheries have been a traditional profession for people who have settled down around the lake during centuries. Fishing on the lake is mentioned first in the foundation charter of Tihany Abbey in 1055. These early memorials tell us about the great quantity of fish and wide variety of fish species in the lake. The huge wetlands, one is called Kis-Balaton located on the Western shore, and the other called Nagy-Berek on the South-Western shore could give perfect places for spawning as well as nourishment and protection for young offsprings’ growth. The existence and shapes of these lands were depended on the water level fluctuation of Lake Balaton.


With the contraction of Sió-lock in 1863, then with the completion of south railway the wetland became blocked from the lake. Finally the construction of the shore line and canals driven through the swamp resulted in the slow death of Nagy-Berek.


Until the 20th century frequent occurrence of 34 fish species were noticed. Until present days the occurrences of 47 fish species have been known. In the last 100 years 14 non-native fish species were introduce into the lake though few of them were spontaneous immigrant. Currently 20-24 fish species are frequent, but usually 15-17 species are found in fishermen’s net.


The Balaton Fishery Company was established on 1th of January 1900 for the result of unified fishing usage of the lake and managing commercial fisheries. Since then Balaton Fishery Company has managed that. They also work on the maintenance of fish fauna, amending of natural population and introducing fishes into the lake. The company changed in 2009. Balaton Fish Management Non-Profit Ltd was founded on 25 August.

The objectives of the Hungarian meeting:


The Leonardo Hungary visit will be an opportunity to see the main characteristics of agricultural land use in the area of Lake Balaton Uplands as well as to demonstrate the possibilities of natural fishing and fish farming. 

  1. To raise public awareness about the waters flowing into the lakes and the effect of non-organic farming on these.
  2. To form partnerships to achieve the desirable environmental effects.
  3. Farming close to and in the National Park areas: difference between national park`s and private farmers interests.
  4. Conflicts between national parks and private farms/hunters.
  5. National/EU programs helping nature friendly land use (Natura 2000, KAT, AKG).
  6. To demonstrate the possibilities of traditional fishing and fishfarming.
  7. Look what are the possibilities of rearing predatory fish on vegetarian diet.
  8. Consider how can intensive aquaculture improve the profitability of the European aquaculture sector.
  9. The importance of fish ponds in nature protection.
  10. To take the European partners out and about to see Lake Balaton environment in an interactive way.

Site visits:


1. Fish Laboratory of Pannon University, Keszthely


The Fish Laboratory has different kind of research programs. They test different kind of impacts to small catfish, and they also examine adaptation, bio manipulation. We could see and try traditional fishing tools.


2. Lavender Plantation, Kékkút


This is a small Eco farm which is running by a young couple. We could see how they planted the lavender, what they can produce from it. They produce different kind of home made products from lavender and from other kind of plants and fruits.  This area is regulated by Balaton Uplands National Park which causes conflicts between farmers and national park.


3. Farm Visitor Center of Balaton Uplands National Park, Salföld


This is a big, outside visitor center where you can see the traditional Hungarian breeds as Hungarian grey cattle, mangalica (hairy pig), puli, pumi, kuvasz, komondor (Hungarian shepherd dogs), water buffalo, racka (sheep), etc.

We heard more about the husbanding on the area of Balaton Uplands National Park.


4. Biofarm, Hegyesd


This is a quite big farm (38 acre) which is running by a couple. They have been managing this farm for 19 years. They mostly keep Hungarian grey cattle and they produce the animals’ fodder, too.


5. Early morning fishing, Lake Balaton and Kis-Balaton


The Balaton Fish Management Non-profit Ltd. organized this field trip for us. We attended in eel catching by fish pot at Lake Balaton. Then we went to Kis-Balaton where we could see the fishermen’s early morning work.


6. Kis-Balaton wetland area


The Kis-Balaton is a large wetland which is located on the Western part of Lake Balaton and its shape is formed by Lake Balaton’s main tributary, River Zala. Kis-Balaton with its area of 14.750 acres has an uninterrupted water-wildlife of large dimensions wich represents a unique value by European standards as well. Kis-Balaton has been a nature protection area since 1951, now it belongs to Balaton Upland National Park. Kis-Balaton has been under the protection of Ramsar Convention since 1979 and it also belongs to the Natura 2000 habitat network.

We saw the realization of II. stage of Kis-Balaton Water Protection system.


7. Irma-puszta Fishponds, Balatonlelle


These are artificial ponds which are used for producing fish. It is belongs to Balaton Fish Management Non-profit Ltd. This area also important for nesting and migratory   birds.

Participants’ comments of group works:





Agriculture is dominated by intensive farming, based on ploughed fields, with much less pestoral.

After cooperative societies similarly corrupted, but there is continuity because there was always big number of individual farmers.

Visible, but still very weak tendency to work together (voluntarity) and seeling for local products, ecological farming, often based on market, sometimes on non-farmers moving into farming sector



More livestock per hectare. Inner with waste. Slurry mixed with groundwater  + can pollute rivers/streams. Average hill farm is from 300 hectare + common grazing. Algal bloom on lakes in summer because of nutrients /phosphate / nitrate.



1. Fish/meat production is quite similar to industrial activity. Relation with nature conservation is challaging.

2. Traditional fishing/shepards… Closely related with territory management. Need to support this activities in order to make them still more compatible with biodiversity protection… and also more profitable to guarantee their economic sustainability.

3. As the crops are different in every region, there are several differences in the practices and challenges, but we all share the same approaches.



Large difference between strongly industrialized agriculture and animal production and some organic farming on a low scale in small enterprises. Especially in northern and eastern Germany largely cleared landscapes without any structures for biodiversity. But at lakes many efforts to keep or improve water quality, also regarding the way and intensity of agriculture in the surrounding. There is a strong trend from small to larger farms.




- mainly extensive production of carp

- was historically more intensive

- fish production is funded by EU

- awareness fo owners/public has improved for the better of fish + ecology

- conflict between fishermen and ecologists

- commercial fisheries low in number than Hungary

- quality of water is better due to improvements in water quality

- local products has become more important. Positive fashion for healthy food

- identification of region of origin e.g. Dolina Baryczy


UK: North west, Lake District

- different fish – pike, perch, salmonids

- no commercial freshwater fishing – recterationla fishing only

- freshwater fish not really eaten except low number of salmon + trout

- stocking only for conservation purposes

- catch + release mainly on all species

- high nutrient levels from intensive agriculture



- fisherman, farmers in conflict (professional)

because fish need to migrate between lake + river, but farmers control the water levels for food production, e.g. rice fields

- don’t introduce any fish into the lake – no stocking

- catfish is a non- native invasive species

- carp present

- laws regulate the fishing. Particularly for elvers – very expensive 400 EURO/kg

- elver fishing only in lake with traditional methods



- similar to Hungary:

1, stocking fish to ponds (introduce)

2, Those fish go into lake Constance at a younger age

3, low nutrients (phosphate) for fish

4, fishermen would like more fish and higher nutrients

5, the fishermen will not win because environmantel protection is more important

6, lots of investment in improving water quality e.g. phosphate removal in detergent

 Lake Balaton
 Early morning fishery
 Fish onds
 Visit in the fish laboratory
 Visit of the biofarm
 Visit at the lavender farm
 At the biofarm
 Beside the fish laboratory
 In the fish laboratory
 Fish Ponds