Rome, Italy – WWF and its partners welcome the Albanian government's decision to protect the Albanian side of Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkans and the largest body of freshwater in the Mediterranean region.
Fed by several deep springs and rivers, mainly the Moraca, Lake Skadar covers as much as 542km2 during the rainy season, stretching across the Montenegrin border into Albania. The lake hosts some of the most important bird habitats of the Mediterranean region, including 250 bird species. About 45 fish species have also been identified and dolphins and bears can be found in terrestrial and coastal protected areas bordering the Albanian side of the lake.
"The new protected area is an important step towards the conservation of Skadar's unique natural heritage, but also an excellent opportunity for the further development of the local economy, and the well-being of the communities living around the lake," said Francesca Antonelli, Head of the Freshwater Programme at WWF's Mediterranean Office. “It is now crucial to secure the sustainable management of the area.”
The new protected status of the Albanian part of Lake Skadar is a step towards both the preservation of outstanding natural features and the development of local economies, especially ecotourism. It should also help address key threats such as the depletion of fish stocks and pollution, due to increasing human pressure, and the decrease in migratory birds. According to Wetlands International, some 80,00 wintering birds were counted at Lake Skadar in 2004, down from 250,000 in 1999.
“The protected area status is a great opportunity to promote the natural beauties of the lake and, most importantly, to steer the development of tourism towards sustainability,” added Antonelli.
• Lake Sakdar is part of the Dinaric Arc region of south-eastern Europe, from from the city of Trieste (Italy) to Tirana (Albania) and including parts of Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Albania.
• WWF's Mediterranean Programme Office is part of the Dinaric Arc Initiative (DAI), a broad framework of collaboration aimed at preserving the wealth and integrity of the Dinaric Arc through the establishment
of networks of protected areas and support to initiatives for the conservation of its biological
diversity and the sustainable management of its resources; promoting inter-cultural dialogue, trans-boundary collaboration and scientific co-operation among the countries of the region; empowering local societies to foster local community development; and integrating environmental policies across all the relevant sectoral initiatives.
• Other partners of the DAI include the: Council of Europe, Directorate for Culture and Cultural and Natural Heritage (DGIV); Euronatur; UN Food and Agriculture Organization; IUCN - The World Conservation Union; UNESCO, Regional Bureau for Science in Europe (ROSTE); UNDP Albania; UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina; UNDP Croatia; and UNDP Serbia and Montenegro.
For further information:
Chantal Menard, Communications Officer
WWF Mediterranean Programme Office
Tel: 39 06 844 97 417