Sherif Durmishi called Baçi to the question “What is the sea for you?" he answers unhesitatingly “It`s my life!". He speaks for "it`s sea" the same he observe every day from his house and fish center in Radhima. Baçi is a fisherman managing jointly with his wife a small familiar business called Radhima Fish Center, including a small restaurant and fish desk for selling.
We are in Vlora bay, Orikum area, in front of Karaburun peninsula and Sazani Island, the first Marine Protected Area in Albania. Nexhip Hysolakoj, Responsible of Monitoring at Regional Administration of Protected Area of Vlora, management authority of Marine Park says: "Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park was proclaimed in 2010 thanks to the collaboration between the Ministry of Environment, UNDP and the former Municipality of Orikum. At the beginning, when this park was proclaimed, people were afraid about the possibility to lose their land. It was the first MPA in Albania and for them it was quite a new reality."
Previosly, the area was a military zone. It continues to be so, just look at Pashalimani military base. This is proven by many and many bunker decommissioned, docks, vessels, barracks and a checkpoint at the beginning of terrestrial entrance of the marine park. But this is also one of the reasons why the area of Marine Park has not suffered a major human impact.
Karaburun peninsula is the largest peninsula of Albania, located at the eastern side of the Strait of Otranto, where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea. It has an area of 62 km2 (24 sq. mi) and has no population. It is 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) long with a width that varies from 3 to 4.5 kilometres (1.9 to 2.8 mi). The peninsula is a Managed Nature Reserve, and contains the Pashaliman military base. The surrounding sea waters form part of the Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park. It offers several attractions as high cliffs, bays, unique caves and underwater treasures.
"Haxhi Alia cave is the most beautiful place of the National Marine Park Karaburun-Sazan. Besides being a touristic attraction, this cave has an amazing view, the cave has also geologic values all around it has stalactites formations which are created over years." add Lorela Lazaj, Director of Regional Administration of Protected Area of Vlora.
Those who want to dive and do snorkeling near the area of Haxhi Alia cave are helped by snorkeling buoy underwater information tables. Thanks to UNDP staff experience and knowledge, in Marine Park are implemented activities and appropriate instruments for a heedful and sustainable tourism. "For us one of our challenges is to inform and make aware the public community. We have a great collaboration with UNDP staff. I state continuously that UNDP project on marine and coastal protected areas has worked to create the main basis, all the necessary logistics and equipment for our normal work."
The color of the sea here has an intense blue as only the Mediterranean can offer but the beauty on the surface it is unfortunately not comparable to that of the seabed, which for years have suffered a harmful bottom trawling below cost and worse yet the use of illegal fishing tools. But never it`s too late, declaring this marine protected area allows its salvation now and its redevelopment and repopulation in the future.
“I am so familiar with this area from my studies on the sea. I remember this area which had more values before compared to the current situation." Ci racconta Prof. Lefter Kashta Biologist at Tirana University "Karaburun area has significant biodiversity values, as for example we have more than 75% of endangered species part of Albania red list. Or you can find emblematic species of Mediterranean as monk seal, sea turtle, dolphins, corals, kelp forests and the most important the posidonia meadows or as we call them in Albanian ``leshterik deti``."
Internal part of Marine Park, near Karaburuni peninsula, is more protected by wind and offers two splendid beaches where water is clear and high quality:: Shen Vasil bay and Shen Jani.
"My dreams, as an inhabitant of this area, are to see this place growing up and be protected. If there will be some changes in the future. These should not affect the beautiful nature, not destroy it. We are happy with this nature because it has given us a miracle and all we need and must is to respect it." added Artan Lazoj, inhabitant of the area that runs a small service point (bar and information center) inside Marine Park in Shen Vasili Bay.
Artan, as Valentina, Baçi and Nexhip were born in this area and are developing their employment activities in full harmony with nature.. After 1991, collapse of filo communist country and great depression, they immigrated in Italy and worked there for years. But after that, they decided to return in Albania. They have rebuilt their lives here and prepare the groundwork for the lives of their children. Valentina Habibaj, owner touristic boat "Teuta", tells us about her experience and hopes for this area that she calls "My place": "I wish this place will continue to be protected in the future. Protection of nature, underwater and terrestrial species means rich nature and biodiversity. This area is not only for the touristic operators but it`s part of all community. They must also pay more attention to protect this nature."
Make known to new generations the natural heritage of their land helps to develop in them the same passion and the same love that parents have toward this place. To this end, Regional Administration of Protected Areas in Vlora believes in a quality environmental education.
“The nature is amazing and we must not damage but protect it." says little Arber seated in the first row at desk of his classroom in Dukat after site visit in Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park, organized by park administration with Valentina touristic boat. All his classmates have prepared something to show afer visited Marine Park: who a drawing, who an open letter with significant message, others with set of photos etc. Arber has not prepared anything and now regrets it. He looks us and knows that need to say something. Then, he plucks up courage and asks to speak in front of all of us.
"The nature is amazing and we must not damage but protect it. "
At the end of his message, his classmates explode in a big applause. Now he is happy and can smile. Now he is convinced. Perhaps, as Valentina, in the future he will decide to call this area "My place".
Prepared by project hired expert Claudia Amico on behalf of the Global Environment Facility Funded, United Nations Development Programme implemented project “Improving Coverage and Effectiveness Management of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas Project”, UNDP Country Office Albania
Albania, December 2016