The Prespa basin is located at the borders between Greece, Albania and Macedonia. It is surrounded by mountains and contains two lakes. The Prespa lakes contain around 23 species of fish, including nine that are endemic. Native carp are important to the fishery sector. However, the introduction of non-native species poses a threat to the structure of endemic fish populations. Long-term monitoring has shown, for example, that Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio) may have contributed to the reduction of water transparency, threatening the water quality of the lakes. Similarly, populations of the invasive pumpkinseed fish (Lepomis gibbosus) and the Asian topmouth gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva) have increased in the last few years and may be related to the decreasing population of endemic Prespa spirlin (Alburnoides prespensis). It is widely accepted that the stocking of non-native fish species results in the population reduction or complete extinction of endemic species. Awareness-raising and the provision of relevant information to decision-makers and stakeholders are therefore essential to prevent detrimental effects on endemic species arising from stocking with non-native fish species.
The overall objectives of the LIFE Prespa Fish & Fisheries project were to promote the conservation of threatened endemic and rare fish species, and to implement sustainable fishery practices in the Prespa lakes. The project aimed to inform and raise awareness among local people and fishermen, both professional and recreational, of these unique fish species and the threats they face, and to encourage the active participation of stakeholders and local authorities in fish protection activities. The information campaign focussed on the importance of sustainable fishery practices across the Prespa basin and of regulations to maintain the lakes’ native fish populations. Increased awareness aimed to facilitate the development of a fisheries management plan by regional authorities, which in turn would help biodiversity conservation and improve fishery practices and regulations at a national and transboundary level.
The LIFE Prespa Fish & Fisheries project conducted a widespread awareness-raising campaign to inform fisherman and local inhabitants about the issues of endemic fish, water quality and sustainable fishing practices in the transboundary Prespa basin. It incorporated a television and radio campaign, frequent newsletters, meetings, and an environmental education programme that reached over 600 schoolchildren. In addition, the project produced a 50-minute documentary on the building of a traditional boat in Prespa, ‘Crafted by Time’, that featured at the Thessaloniki documentary film festival and was aired on television The project team also used a range of materials such as information boards, letters, brochures and calendars to disseminate the project’s outcomes to a wide range of recipients.
Two book-length publications were produced, one on saving fish biodiversity and one on sustainable fisheries in Prespa basin, which contained scientific and legal information on fish and fishing, as well as proposals for management measures in the Prespa lakes. These served to support fish and fishery management decision-making by local authorities in the three countries bordering the lakes. Local authorities also benefitted generally from the expertise disseminated through the project.
The project encouraged fishermen and local authorities to participate in activities directly related to the protection of fish and the sustainability of fisheries, with the aim of improving the institutional framework for the management of fish and fisheries. An enlargement of the existing Wetland Management Committee was an important outcome of the project; this included a permanent mechanism for the formal participation of fishermen in management decisions, and introduced the issue of fisheries management as a regular activity for the first time. Through this committee, the closed fishing period was furthermore extended during 2011 and 2012. Project findings were also included in the work-plan of Prespa National Park Management Board. The LIFE project also introduced and demonstrated environmentally-friendly practices for cleaning fish-nets without detergents. Other environmental benefits include increased and more effective fish spawning due to the extension of the closed fishing period, and improved acceptance of conservation measures.
Changes in attitudes to fish biodiversity and changes in fishing practices were monitored during and on completion of the project. Research on the attitudes and practices of both professional and amateur fishermen demonstrated that awareness of the issues had been increased. The approach throughout the project was to promote sustainable fisheries, both for ecological reasons and for the long-term economic benefit of fisheries.
Catsadorakis, G., Papadopoulou, E., Petrakos, M., Koutseri, I. “Status of Fisheries at Megali Prespa Lake and Mikri Prespa Lake, Greece, Based on a Census of Fishermen’s Opinions”, Environment and Ecology Research 2018, 6(6): 583f-592.