Continental Trout

Wild trout, Valbona’s pride

The Albanian Alps and their generous inhabitants welcomed us this summer in Valbona. EcoAlbania’s team joined Balkans Peace Parks Project (B3P) to develop educational activities with children of Valbona Valley. We went in Valbona especially to continue our initiative to protect wild trout as one of the most important fish in the valley, but not only. Awareness raising on the importance of preserving the wild trout is a basic element for the future of its population. EcoAlbania and Continental Trout Conservation Fund (CTCF) are working on the introduction of appropriate fishing practices in this area.


During the outdoor activities with the kids in Valbona © J. Sula

The awareness raising for a more responsible society must start with educating future generations, those to whom we will trust the future of our planet. Therefore, we chose to join in B3P programme to contribute a little bit in educating children in Valbona valley. On July 27th -29th, 2015, we organized a series of indoor and outdoor activities. Inside the class were held presentations on trout ecology and the importance of preserving it as the important part of the valley’s pride. Children divided into three groups depending on their age, took part in the outdoor activities through which we aimed to stimulate their imagination and critical thinking by listening to the sounds of nature, touching and memorizing the nature objects, creating poems for wild life … etc. “Nature is precious as homeland, is clean and beautiful,” said one of the children in her essay. Many of them expressed their commitment to contribute on protecting their surrounding beautiful nature that makes them feel proud about.

Further awareness raising, development of management plans, or implementation of good practices such as: fly-fishing for sport through “Catch & Release” are in fact the successful practices used in a sustainable way and serving as one of the main tools to improve the economic situation of the local community. These are more convenient ways to create a favorable relationship between man and nature.

From Besjana Guri/ EcoAlbania

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Fly-fishing for science

Next week a CTCF delegation in cooperation with EcoAlbania will visit the Valbona River valley in Albania. Initially the purpose of this trip was to get a general impression of the situation in the basin, and to assess its potential for a project that combines trout/habitat conservation and the establishment of eco-tourism in that very habitat. Depending upon this trip’s findings and results we were to define its continuation, the first priority most probably being the necessity of doing scientific research in order to determine which particular trout species we would be dealing with.


© René Beaumont/ CTFC

It should be noted that only nine trout specimens have ever been sampled along quite a long stretch of the Valbona River (by Alain Crivelli; see previous blogs). This is, by far, not enough to get any picture at all of the genetic structure of the trout in this basin. In this respect we asked ourselves, while being there, and surely not able to resist the urge to cast a fly or two, why we should not collect the genetic material needed for such survey ourselves? And so it will be.

Since he would not be able to make it to Albania, Aleš Snoj, dedicated to the project as genetic researcher, provided a crash course on how to collect and preserve fin clips the proper way. Carlos Rodriquez, holding a Ph.D. in Aquatic Biology, will supervise the collecting, and document it. We also are happy to have on board Denik Ulqini, from Shkodra University who is a fish expert and skilled on its sampling methods. The flyfishermen: Alfonso Soria, Tjong Khoe, Olsi Nika, and René Beaumont. All samples will be shipped to the Department of Animal Science of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, for further investigation by Aleš Snoj c.s., and, ultimately, by Alain Crivelli.

Last but not least: at the last minute Johannes Schöffmann decided to join us in Albania, where he last did research some twenty years ago. For the past decades Johannes has contributed largely to the world’s knowledge of salmonid distributions, phylogenetics, and ecology through countless adventures to remote places in his search for native trout. Johannes has been referred to as “the master without a Masters”. He never attended a university yet became a world expert on his subject, and expanded the understanding of the incredible diversity of trout.

By René Beaumont/ CTFC

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The first step: Know what’s up

Albania… Probably this is the only country in Europe where no brown trout from Atlantic strains have been introduced by man, ever. Here, trout come in the diversity of a dream factory’s kaleidoscope: S. marmoratusS. ohridanusS. letnica – three to four subspecies or forms, S. trutta – brook and lake forms, S. farioidesS. peristericusS. montenegrinus, … Unfortunately these gems of evolution are a much threatened fish species in this country, due to the intense poaching, all year round, all over.

Yet they still can be found in remote places, many of those being rather difficult to access. The main question: which trout is where, and which species (singular/plural?) are we dealing with in the Valbona basin?


Valbona River © O. Nika/ EcoAlbania

For a full understanding of the current situation in the project area, scientific knowledge is –of course- the very base for working on sustainable solutions for conservation. In a previous survey, performed in 2005, the trout in the Valbona system were found to be genetically very heterogeneous. It is not known how many evolutionary lineages there are in this system, nor if these are native or perhaps introduced as is the case, for instance, in Macedonia and southern Serbia, where many a trout trans-location between Adriatic and Aegean rivers have been observed. Given the high trout diversity in this area, it is of main importance to establish evolutionary significant units and also management units. Therefore it has been suggested to repeat that very survey and extend it to new sites (in the Valbona catchment and in neighboring basins as well) which potentially hold autochthonous trout. In the mean time also the density of the trout present can be assessed. It is believed that such study, ten years after, is a prerequisite in terms of trout and habitat conservancy in the project area. Based on the results obtained at this stage, next steps will be considered.

In this project Continental Trout Conservation Fund partners with the recently established NGO EcoAlbania. The two assured themselves of collaboration with the finest of experts. All of these do have the expertise plus the experience required to make this project a success.

Alain Crivelli – Research Director at Tour du Valat, Centre de recherche pour la conservation des zones humides méditerranéennes (France): research coordinator

Aleš Snoj – Senior Research Associate at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia); Balkan Trout Restoration Group : genetic researcher

By: Rene Boumont/ CTCF & Olsi Nika/ EcoAlbania

Further information: | Continental Trout-Albania 

Olsi Nika – E-mail: [email protected] | Tel.: +355 69 29 44 757

René Beaumont – E-mail: [email protected]


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Continetal Trout Albania

Albania, breathtaking and promising!

At the last day of the activity organized in the Soča valley Tolmin, Slovenia, on 24th -30th of august 2014, we tried to show the situation of the Albnanian rivers in our country as well as the ways of how to work on the protestion of their natural values.  Hardly familiar with Albania at all, the audience was quite surprised and impressed by this presentation. Albanian Alps have breathtaking 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, the economic situation in Albania is a serious threat for the Albanian 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 (EcoAlbania), and our partners.
Meanwhile we have defined a starting point project area in the Albanian Alps – Accursed Mountains, which extend from northern Albania to eastern Montenegro and Kosovo. The Valbona River is Albania’s largest and probably has the highest potential of all in terms of biodiversity and biomass in the Albanian Alps. Almost the entire watershed is situated in a National Park. We already have 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. However the trout population due to illegal fishing is dramatically decreased in the last years, but the potential of the habitat is still so inviting to undertake some initiatives for restoration and most probably to succeed. Their reputation will help further profiling (the safeguarding of) these trout as a means and as a mascot for enhancing the local situation and its economy, which is much welcomed by the local communities of the Valbona River valley.


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