Protecting Albania's Marine and Coastal Biodiversity

What is the project about

Karaburuni marine and coastal protected area
Karaburuni marine and coastal protected area

More than one third of the Adriatic coast in Albania is being eroded - at a rate of one to two metres per year - accelerated by removing gravel and sand from beaches for construction industry, uncontrolled construction along the coast, deforestation of large coastal areas (even inside protected areas), and agricultural development. Increased migration to coastal areas has resulted in uncontrolled harvest of coastal and marine resources (‘Protected Areas gap assessment, marine biodiversity, and legislation, UNDP 2010’)

Overfishing along the entire marine stretch has led to the depletion of breeding grounds of Sparidae, Soleidae, Mullidae and more. Foreign offshore fishing has depleted stocks, especially of fish, mollusks and crustaceans (‘Marine Protected Area Report, UNDP 2009’)

Bivalves and crustaceans have been collected illegally. Divers have illegally extracted the bivalve mollusc in a way that damages entire coastal rocks. Marine vertebrates such as sea turtle (Caretta caretta), dolphins, sharks and otter (Lutra lutra) are trapped in fishing nets, and in most of the cases are killed instead of being released.

Uncontrolled hunting is another major form of disturbance to biodiversity, especially in the winter months when migratory birds are at risk

Pollution of marine and coastal waters is increasing, especially in lagoons. Most pollution comes from urban and industrial waste, sewage, and chemicals used in agriculture (‘Analysis of the proposed potential areas as Marine Protected Areas in Albania, UNDP 2009’)

The impact of climate change is seen in: rising sea levels, changing ecosystems in lagoons, increased frequency and intensity of floods, introduction of alien and invasive species from warmer regions, and a decrease in some marine and coastal populations of fish and invertebrates.

Potential threats include extraction of sand from the bottom of the sea, plans for drilling and possible oil exploitation along the coast, and invasive species.

UNDP and the Global Environment Facility support the Government’s plans to double marine protected areas, and improve their overall management. In close cooperation with national partners, this includes:          

●     Improving the legal and regulatory framework that supports setup and management of protected areas;

●     Preparing a strategic plan for marine and coastal protected areas;

●     Assisting protected area administrations with management and business plans of protected areas, including cost-effective management, conservation approaches, participation with conservationists and local communities;

●     Demonstrating management and business planning at the marine protected area of Karaburuni-Sazani;           

●     Identifying and marking buffer zones for existing coastal protected areas followed by appropriate management scenarios.

What have we accomplished so far

Fishermen south albania
Fishermen, South of Albania. (Credit UNDP Albania)
  • UNDP in  cooperation with Ministry of Environment and Local Authorities in Orikumi has continuously steered-up synergies and efforts from all stakeholders to accomplishment of one main objective: improved management and conservation of marine ecosystems in the piloted area of Sazan-Karaburuni, but countrywide as well.
  • The Management Plan for Karaburun-Sazan Marine Protected Area has been developed through a participatory approach, including four stakeholders’ workshops, consultative meetings, opinion polls, etc.
  •  The structure of the Management Plan follows the “Standard Structure of Protected Areas Management Plans in Albania” approved by the Ministry on Environment on 21 February 2013 (Order No. 148). It deals with description of the National Marine Park (NMP), where all relevant data on location, legal status, policies and legislation are listed; this is followed by an analysis of stakeholders and description of PA natural system, of existing PA facilities and current visitor use, of socio-economic system, current and foreseen governance structure, cultural landscape and heritage, as well as studies and scientific research related to the marine protected area (MPA). The plan also addresses management aspects stating the vision of the MPA, the management themes and management zones of the NMP.
  • Each objective contains a list of prioritized activities that are to be implemented accompanied by their indicators, monitoring of which shows if the Plan is being implemented. Zoning includes description of each zone, a zoning map and a table of activities in each zone, with regulation of activities.
  • Enforcement and control mechanisms such as surveillance /patrolling in the target area of Sazan-Karaburuni, are ensuring mitigation and prevention of all kind of damages and environment pressures.
  • A number of Memorandums of Understandings have been implemented involving stakeholders in the process of surveillance, monitoring and law enforcements in protected areas.
  • Six rangers work together with local structures based on an operational plan for controlling illegal fishing and hunting, grazing, fires.
  • Socio-economic assessment of Sazan - Karaburuni marine and coastal protected area is guiding the development of ecotourism thus creating synergies with other ongoing initiatives in the marine area.
  • Strategic Plan on Marine and Coastal Protected Areas will inform a coordinated decision making for an ecosystem-based spatial management ensuring sustainable development while conserving and managing natural biodiversity and resources. It is included in the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan which is under development by the Ministry of Environment. In line with this, there are two new potential MPA under assessment namely Porto – Palermo and Rodoni Cape.
  • The process for preparing the relevant documents needed to design two additional MPAs and undertaking a more in-depth assessment is based on sound scientific knowledge.  For both areas, an ecological assessment is done including completion of the biodiversity survey, desk studies of the existing data, field data gathering on marine biodiversity and ecology, zoning and demarcation of sensitive areas, drafting the set of regulatory instruments to proclaim the area.  The management plan is under preparation for Porto Palermo.
  • A global performance management tool called Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) has been introduced in Marine Protected Areas. More than half of the local administration is trained how to use METT tools. The tool has established the baseline for further monitoring of the situation in the protected areas across the country in compliance with Conventions on Protected Areas and European Union requirements.
  • A  Training Needs Assessment has been done and training modules for Marine and Coastal Protected Areas have been developed targeting the main stakeholders and personnel. A national workshop is organized with MCPA stakeholders nationwide where the training curricula and respective modules for the marine biodiversity conservation and management issues were also shared with participants.
  • A comprehensive public awareness and communications campaign has been implemented throughout the project implementation targeting national counterparts, students, civil society and the media. The campaignhelped raise awareness about the need to conserve the marine coastal protected areas.
  •  The Management Committee and the Project Board has been gathered to discuss, assist and support the project implementation and the management of Karaburuni-Sazani MPA.


Who finances it?

Year Donor  Amount
2010 GEF/UNDP/Government of Albania $ 74,701.00
2011 GEF/UNDP/Government of Albania $ 217,992.00
2012 GEF/UNDP/Government of Albania $ 217,992.00
2013 GEF/UNDP/Government of Albania $229,709
2014 GEF/UNDP/Government of Albania $300,329


Year  Total delivery 
2011  $ 71,520.76
2012   $ 200,221.31
2013 $211,742.62
2014  $ 296,902.74
Project Overview
Porject duration
January 2011 - April 2016
Geographic coverage
Nationwide, pilot area MPA Karaburun-Sazani
1, 7
Programme Officer
Elvita Kabashi
Project Manager
Violeta Zuna
Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Water Administration; Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports; Local Authorities, Municipality of Orikumi; Directorate of Forestry Service, Fishery associations; NGOs interested in the field of biodiversity and protected areas