The non-tidal Curonian lagoon is a shallow semi-locked
and almost fresh-water body which is located on the
southeastern rim of the Baltic Sea. It is the largest
Baltic Sea lagoon (surface area 1,584 sq. km). The Nemunas
river provides the main water inflow into the Curonian
lagoon, which discharges to the Baltic Sea. July and
August are the warmest months of the year with the main
daily air temperature reaching +17ºC.
Politically, the Curonian lagoon region is divided in
two parts: The northern one belongs to Lithuania and
the southern part to Kaliningrad Oblast, which is the
exclusive territory of Russian Federation.
Geographically, the Curonian lagoon and the adjacent
region form a huge natural entity. The southeastern
Baltic coastal accumulative plain includes three major
parts: The Nemunas delta, the Curonian spit and the
Sambian peninsula. The total area of this region is
app. 4.000 sq. km.
The Curonian spit is famous for its 31 km long coastal
ridge of 40-60 m high drifting barchans. In 2000 the
entire Curonian spit has been included into the UNESCO
World Heritage List as a cultural landscape of outstanding
value. It is protected within the national parks of
Kuriunerija (Lithuania) and Kurshskayakosa (Russia).
The sandy marine beaches of the Curonian spit together
with nice traditional resorts, mature pinewoods and
the magnificent vistas over the drifting dunes and the
Curonian lagoon form the most valuable tourism attraction
of the whole region. Thus Curonian lagoon has become
an international tourism destination.
The Nemunas delta with a maze of river branches, canals,
polders and wetlands is protected as a wetland of international
importance under the Ramsar convention and as a regional
park. The Nemunas delta is important for the migrating
and breeding birds, particularly, geese, ducks and waders.
The long list of species, the high concentrations recorded
highlights the unique international importance of the
Nemunas delta for the development of eco-tourism.
Management of sustainable tourism
The Department of Recreation
and Tourism at Klaipeda University together with the
EUCC Baltic Office are the leading institutions facilitating
the sustainable tourism development in the Curonian
lagoon area. The whole process started in 1993 when
efforts aimed at fostering the sustainable development
of Rusne island in the Nemunas delta got support from
the EUCC - The Coastal Union and the promotion of
sustainable tourism became one of the key priorities
of the program.
The promotion of sustainable
tourism development in the Curonian Lagoon area is
supported mainly by the external aid sources provided
by the European Commission within the PHARE and TACIS
programs (PHARE Partnership, PHARE ACCESS, PHARE and
TACIS Small Project Facility programs). Support obtained
from the Royal Netherlands Embassy (MATRA KNIP program)
and the Baltic American Partnership Program is also
The particular projects
mentioned above were based on the farmers to farmers
principle and focused on the development of the sustainable
tourism development plan for the Curonian lagoon region,
on the sustainable tourism demonstration programs
in the Nemunas delta and on the Curonian spit (pictures).
As a result several projects were established in the
area: Rusne Rural Tourism Organization, Rusne Rural
Tourism Information and Consultation Center, Water
Tourism Center in Minge. Facilitation of sustainable
tourism development was ensured through a variety
of activities with local communities of Curonian spit
and with administrations of national parks Kursiunerija(Lithuania)
and Kurshskajakosa (Russia)
Comments and theory
In both the Lithuanian and Russian parts
of the Curonian lagoon region fishing and agriculture
have maintained their leading roles in the local economy
during the 1990s and early 2000s. The economic performance
of these sectors and their capacity to provide a decent
living for the local population has declined dramatically
because of the emergence of the market economy and the
change of mechanisms behind the production from a matter
of central planning to local decisions affected by prices
of resources needed and products manufactured.
Tourism is a new emerging opportunity for a truly sustainable
and decent future of the region if its development is
based on the key strengths of the Curonian lagoon region
as an area with outstanding natural amenities.
The Curonian spit is by far the most suitable area for
tourism development in the region, but its status as
a national park appears to ensure a strong legal protection
against large-scale developments outside the areas already
developed. It seems very important to discuss whether
the spit should be reserved mainly for low-scale exclusive
tourism, affordable only to foreigners and rich locals,
or whether there should also be facilities for locals
with "normal" incomes. At present the trend
seems to be the first.
From the rural, agro-, eco-, and water-tourism perspectives,
the Nemunas delta is much more attractive than the Curonian
spit. But whether the expected sustainable tourism development
opportunities will be realized and remains open to questioning.
The utilization of rich natural resources for sustainable
tourism development in the Curonian lagoon region and
its economic and social recovery will be possible only
if the region bases its development on essential principles
Without deliberate positive actions quite a few events
might have detrimental effects upon the tourism development
and thereby on the social welfare and the long-term
economic growth of the region. A particularly harmful
situation might occur if the region lacks the proper
attention and support from the central governments of
Russia and Lithuania, because the bureaucracy can strangle
local enterprising initiatives.
Efforts should be made to endorse tourism development
in the Curonian lagoon region towards a sustainable
use of local natural resources and maintenance of cultural
heritage, facilitation of site-specific development
of small-scale leisure facilities according to local
peculiarities and carrying capacity of landscapes and
ecosystems. This could increase the local knowledge
on the sustainable use of natural resources through
special training programs, the local 'centers of excellence'
diverse programs of education and social integration
for different target groups.
essential principles of sustainability should
be followed in order to utilize rich natural resources
for sustainable tourism development in the Curonian
Further information on sustainable tourism development
in the Curonian lagoon region can be obtained from the
Department of Recreation and Tourism,
Klaipeda University, H. Manto street, 84, KLAIPEDA,
LT-5808, Lithuania, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tourism Fund, Ukmerges street, 20, VILNIUS, LT-2600,
lagoon web-based information system
are the key prerequisites for the successful implementation
of the sustainable tourism development program
in the Curonian lagoon region?