Sherif Durmishi called to Baçi, “What is the sea for you?" and he answers unhesitatingly, “It’s my life!”. Baçi is a fisherman who jointly manages with his wife a small familiar business called Radhima Fish Center, which includes a restaurant and fish desk for selling.
We are in Vlora bay, Orikum area, in front of Karaburun peninsula and Sazani Island, the first Marine Protected Area in Albania. The color of the sea here has an intense blue as only the Mediterranean can offer, but the beauty on the surface is unfortunately not comparable to that of the seabed, which for years has suffered a harmful bottom trawling and the use of illegal fishing tools.
Declaring this marine protected area allows for its salvation now and redevelopment and repopulation in the future. Human wellbeing is closely linked with healthy oceans and degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems endangers the physical, economic and food security of coastal communities.
Discovering new places through sustainable tourism
Marine Protected Areas projects actively support sustainable tourism: "Haxhi Alia cave is the most beautiful place of the National Marine Park Karaburun-Sazan. Besides being a touristic attraction, this cave has an amazing view, the cave has also geologic values all around it has stalactites formations which are created over years." - Lorela Lazaj, Director of Regional Administration of Protected Area of Vlora.
A sense of belonging
It is key for Marine Protected Areas projects to trigger raised public awareness and help everyone develop a sense of belonging, particularly amongst the locals.
" Karaburun area has significant biodiversity values […] you can find emblematic species of the Mediterranean such as monk seal, sea turtle, dolphins, corals, kelp forests and the most important the posidonia meadows or as we call them in Albanian ``leshterik deti``." - Prof. Lefter Kashta, Biologist at Tirana University
"My dream, as an inhabitant of this area, is to see this place growing up and be protected." adds Artan Lazoj, who runs a small service point (bar and information center) inside Marine Park in Shen Vasili Bay.
Artan, Valentina, Baçi and Nexhip were born in this area and are developing their employment activities in full harmony with nature. After 1991 and the collapse of the communist block and the great depression that followed, they immigrated to Italy and worked there for years. After awhile, they decided to return to Albania. They have rebuilt their lives here and prepared the groundwork for the lives of their children.
"I wish this place will continue to be protected in the future. Protection of nature, underwater and terrestrial species means rich nature and biodiversity. This area is not only for the touristic operators but it`s part of all community. They must also pay more attention to protect this nature." - Valentina Habibaj, owner of a touristic boat.
Quality environmental education
Marine Protected Areas projects, and in particular the Regional Administration of Protected Areas in Vlora, actively support quality environmental education for younger generations. Such an approach makes new generations aware of the natural heritage of their land and helps to develop within them the same passion and the same love that their parents have towards this place.
“The nature is amazing and we must not damage, but protect it." says little Arber seated in the first row at desk of his classroom in Dukat after a site visit in Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park, organized by park administration with Valentina’s touristic boat.
Story compiled based on an original text prepared by the project hired expert, Claudia Amico, on behalf of the Global Environment Facility Funded, United Nations Development Programme implemented project “Improving Coverage and Effectiveness Management of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas Project”, UNDP Country Office Albania.
For more information on Marine Protected Areas projects in Albania please visit: http://www.al.undp.org/content/albania/en/home/operations/projects/environment_and_energy/protecting-albania-s-marine-and-coastal-biodiversity.html and http://mcpa.iwlearn.org/
IW:LEARN is the Global Environment Facility's (GEF) International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network. The IW:LEARN project was established to strengthen transboundary water management around the globe by collecting and sharing best practices, lessons learned, and innovative solutions to common problems. It promotes learning among project managers, country officials, implementing agencies, and other partners.