Burgas lake - Vaya

Bourgas lake


Protected Area “Burgas Lake”


‘Burgas Lake’

Land registered in the city of Burgas

Curious facts about the lake:

  • Burgas Lake is a Ramsar and Natura 200 site;
  • Corncrake - globally threatened species is identified as a migratory species in the protected area
  • It is one of the most important wetlands in the country for breeding of little bittern.

Geographical features:
Part of the protected area is the largest natural reservoir in Bulgaria. It is known under two different names - Burgas Lake or Lake Vaya and its water is distributed between two residential areas of Burgas - Upper and Lower Ezerovo. The Lake occupies 2,899.9ha, with salty waters of a depth of 1.5m due to its relationship with the Black Sea (it is linked to it via a canal). It not only provides a constant flow of saltwater, but it also provides a saltwater fish lake. The freshwater comes from the rivers of Aytoska, Sandardere and Chukarska that flow in the western part. The lake is separated from the sea with a sandbar where now the industrial zone of Burgas is. In the northeastern part of the lake, it is surrounded by small ponds (marshes that are overgrown with dense marsh vegetation and abandoned fishponds).

© Evgeni Dinev

Life in the protected area:
The living world of the seabirds is the pearl of Lake Vaya. In its waters during different seasons of the year, you can see around 260 species of birds. Many are rare in the country and Europe as a whole; nine of these species are threatened with extinction worldwide. This makes the Bourgas Lake one of the three most important wetland complexes for waterfowl along the Black Sea coast. Few other places in Bulgaria have nightly nesting colonies, small white herons and Sandwich terns. Walking along the lake in the winter, you have the chance to admire the small cormorants, pelicans, beautiful and outstanding Red velvet and stiff-tailed ducks, Pochard ducks and hooded. Vaya is also a resting place during migration for many species crossing the ‘invisible’ migratory highway of Via Pontica. In recent years, Lake Burgas has regained its fame as one of the richest sources of fish here.. This is largely due to the cleaning of the canal connecting the lake to the sea, which allows the entry of large amounts of sea mullet and other species that are a source of livelihood for local fishermen. The protected area has established otter colonies, Polecats and mice, e.g. dormouse.


The lake and the city:
Vaya is located on the outskirts of the second largest city on the Black Sea coast, Burgas. The largest estuary is subjected to high anthropogenic pressure, due to being widely used for fishing. The shores are heavily polluted with domestic and construction waste due to illegal disposal. The basin sediments are largely contaminated with toxic chemicals due to the operation of the largest petrochemical company in the country: Lukoil JSC.

Main threats to the protected area:

  • Changes in land use is one of the most serious threats to its restoration and preservation;
  • Eutrophication of Lake Vaya due to high levels of fertilizers running off from the fields;
  • Overgrown reed beds along the basin; it’s important to preserve open area required for many bird species to feed and rest;
  • Water quality deterioration: it depletes fish stocks with serious consequences to the survival of many bird species. Wastewater on the northern and southern industrial zone of Burgas, which passes through a sewage plant treatment works. However, the same cannot be said for sewage waters coming from Upper and Lower Ezerovo;
  • Noise pollution - its source is the main road that runs through the east side of the lake.
  • Poaching: Illegal catches of fish –reduces the fish fauna of the lake, especially when done during the spawn. The use of illegal fishing nets also jeopardize many species of rare and endangered birds and reptiles that get entangling in the nets of poacher. Poaching also causes disturbance for species nesting, feeding or resting in Lake Vaya.

© Evgeni Dinev

Regime of protection in PA ‘Burgas Lake’ 
it is prohibited to:

  • Change the land use, e.g. forestation of grasslands and pastures and/or their conversion into arable land and permanent crops;
  • Use pesticides and fertilizers on grassland;
  • Cut canes from the period of the 1st of March to the 15th of August (breeding season for all species occurring in the area);
  • Burn reed beds and coastal vegetation.

Scientific information:

The Protected Zone ‘Burgas Lake’ is part of the national ecological network in Bulgaria under the Biological Diversity Act. Its registration number in the pan-European ecological network Natura 2000 is BG0000273. It was declared under the Birds Directive to protect and maintain habitats of legally protected species and to achieve their FCS. One of the objects of the activities undertaken in protected areas is to restore the habitats of species that are protected within them, especially those which are essential to improve the conservation status.

The area is also part of the Ramsar convention, which is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, aiming to stop the progressive encroachment on, and loss of, wetlands; this is in recognition of the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value.

This PA is a small area of the zone called  ‘Mandra–Poda’. It includes lands only from the Burgas municipality with an area of 30ac.
In the region of Bourgas Lake, 245 species of birds can be found. Of these, 105 species are important for conservation in Europe.

Nine species are classified as SPEC 1 of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which means that they are in danger of extinction worldwide.
Twenty-six species are classified as SPEC 2 and 69 species in SPEC3 - endangered species on the continent.