Albania has experienced rapid economic growth and coastal tourism during the last two decades. Coastal development has resulted in marine resource exploitation threatening Albania's diverse marine ecosystems, including temperate coral and rocky reefs, soft sediment communities, and some of the last healthy seagrass habitats in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite pressure from development and artisanal fishing, marine ecosystems were unprotected until 2010.
Protecting an area such a Karaburun Sazan Peninsula required both the knowledge and buy-in of the local communities, as well as a plan that balanced development and protection.
For two years, UNDP, with funding by GEF, and partners conducted feasibility studies to identify key biological gaps in conservation and management of the marine areas. Extensive consultations with everyone from government leaders to local community members gathered feedback for the preservation and long term vision of Vlora Bay.
An extensive public awareness and advocacy campaign targeting students, civil society, and local administration helped raise awareness about the need to conserve the marine coastal protected areas and promote the biodiversity and tourism values hosted in this genuine ecosystem.
In 2010, UNDP, the Albanian Government, local authorities and the communities themselves finalized the process of proclamation of the area as a marine protected area.
The dynamic process of citizen engagement throughout the process has led to a better understanding about the Park, more participation of fishermen in the park activities, and better knowledge of the unique value that this area possesses and its tremendous potential for tourism development.
“The Marine Park has a management plan which, for the first time, is accompanied by a business plan that guides our daily work and future planning for the development of the area…Six rangers patrol the area for illegal fishing hunting, grazing, and fires.”
- Lorela Lazaj, Director of the Regional Directorate of the Protected Areas in Vlora
Community members are taking better care of the sea and its natural values. Tourists are increasing by the day to see the unique value and beauty that the Marine Park offers.