Preserving biodiversity and sharing responsibility (completed)

Project description

Title: Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity at Lakes Prespa, Ohrid and Shkodra/Skadar (CSBL)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Tourism and Environment of Albania, Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning of North Macedonia, Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro. 
Overall term: 2012 to 2020

Young people discover nature in the region of Lakes Prespa, Ohrid and Shkodra. © GIZ


Thanks to their rare and unique flora and fauna, the western Balkan lakes of Prespa, Ohrid and Shkodra/Skadar are considered biodiversity hotspots in Europe, playing host to fish such as the Ohrid trout and Prespa barbell, water chestnuts and Shkodra/Skadar oak trees. The wider Drin river basin hosts many endemic species, while the lakes surrounded by precious wetlands serve as safe havens for endangered plants and animals. However, agriculture, tourism and the fishing industry threaten these unique and biodiverse habitats. As European Union (EU) candidates, Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia have set out to manage their lakes more sustainably and to implement the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), as well as the Birds and Habitats Directives. Whereas complying with national legal frameworks, riparian countries must cooperate with each other in order to agree upon and achieve joint environmental and biodiversity protection goals. 


The lakes’ natural resources are managed on a transboundary basis and in compliance with EU environmental and biodiversity protection targets.

Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity 2


Since its start in 2012, CSBL has been supporting the three riparian countries to take a transboundary approach to natural resources management. CSBL provided support to better protect the biodiversity of lakes and rivers, while at the same time develop their economies sustainably. By defining common goals, establishing cross-border working structures and developing shared knowledge today, countries are prepared to meet EU requirements. 

CSBL focuses on four action fields: sustainable fisheries, transboundary cooperation, biodiversity conservation and transboundary water resources management in line with EU WFD. Capacity building lies at the core of the project’s mission.


  • Together with its partners, the programme established monitoring systems conforming to EU standards with which flora and fauna are now being regularly monitored. As a result, key documents such as Initial Characterisation of the three Lakes, Fish, and Fisheries were developed.
  • Based on recognised methodologies under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives, the countries engaged in monitoring the effectiveness of species conservation measures. 
  • As a result of good management of the lake, 41,000 water birds populate lake Shkodra in Albania (2019), 14 per cent more than the previous year, and the Dalmatian Pelican is back in the lake after many years.
  • A jointly developed Monitoring Manual for the Lake Bound Species has been adopted by the riparian authorities to become the first ever harmonised methodology on species monitoring in line with EU Birds and Habitats Directives.
  • Support to the implementation of Natura2000 requirements has advanced in Montenegro by developing the Habitat Mapping of the entire Shkodra/Skadar Lake and the related harmonised reference list between Albania and Montenegro.
  • Eight endemic fish species such as the Prespa trout have been recorded in Lake Prespa alone, ten in Lake Ohrid, as well as a trout believed to have become extinct, rediscovered in Lake Shkodra/Skadar. 
  • With the implementing partner, the Institute of Inland Fisheries in Potsdam-Sacrow (Germany), multi-annual cross-border stock assessments was conducted.
  • A data base with more than 130,000 fish entries has been compiled, being a comprehensive outline of fish assemblages of the three lakes since the 1970s. 
  • Through the established Technical Working Group, the three countries are supported to develop the first ever management plan for European eel Management.
  • Sustainable fisheries management has been advanced by the support to establish the Joint Commission on In-Land Fisheries between Albania and Montenegro and initiated between Albanian and North Macedonia.
  • The first ever transboundary assessment of Shorezone Functionality (EU WFD) for the three lakes was developed. 
  • More than 200,000 people will benefit from the implementation of the developed Programme of Measures for lakes Shkodra/Skadar and Prespa. 
  • Scientific contribution supported the designation of Ohrid Lake as UNESCO World Heritage Cultural/Natural Property on the Albanian side of the lake (2019), paving the way to better management of the lake through national and cross border actions between Albania and North Macedonia.
Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity 3