Shqipëria, here we come!
At the final day of our Masterclass Olsi Nike (our participant from Albania) went into the situation in his home country and the opportunities he thought of interest to work on from a conservation perspective. Hardly familiar with Albania at all, he quite surprised and impressed the audience with his presentation. Olsi showed breathtaking alpine headwater settings with pristine rivers which –thanks to their hydro-morphological and physic-chemical conditions- hold a great potential for hosting healthy wild trout populations. On the other hand he emphasized that the economic situation in Albania is a serious threat for its natural heritage, especially in such remote parts. In this respect the plans for the construction of whole series of hydropower dams are a point of particular interest…
Inspiration, however, was found on the spot, in Tolmin, in the showcase of our very host city. Introducing catch & release flyfishing to the Soča River and its tributaries had generated a substantial and sustainable source of income for the local community. And it still does. Since this is believed to be a most adequate way of creating a win-win relationship between nature and people, also courage was drawn right from this example. Then, after discussing, and empowered by the ultimate Leitmotiv “why not?” we decided to just go for it – CTCF, CT-Albania, and our partners.
Meanwhile we have defined a project area in the Albanian Alps – Accursed Mountains, which extend from northern Albania to eastern Montenegro and Kosovo. The Valbona River is the largest in this mountain range, and probably has the highest potential of all in terms of biodiversity and biomass. Almost the entire watershed is situated in a National Park. CT-Albania already has good and steady contacts in the region, some of them even having undertaken initiatives to develop eco-tourism by creating a basic infrastructure. What’s more, the Valbona trout do have some fame, not only in the region, also beyond. Although the present trout population declined dramatically during the past years due to illegal fishing, the potential of the habitat is too inviting to not undertake initiatives for its restoration. When done with proper care this will most probably succeed. The trout’s reputation will help further profiling (the safeguarding of) them as a means and as a mascot for enhancing the local situation and its economy, which is much welcomed by the communities of the Valbona River valley.