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It’s In Our Genetics: Improving Fishing through Better Natural Resource Management in Montenegro

April 23, 2015


  • Dragan Petrovic is a mechanic who supplements his income by fishing on Lake Skadar, the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula.
  • Petrovic’s fisherman association received assistance from the World Bank to help reduce illegal fishing and increase awareness about natural resource management and preservation of the lake.
  • Illegal fishing has drastically reduced on Lake Skadar and more people are taking action to help maintain the beauty and the health of Lake Skadar.

Lake Skadar, on the border between Montenegro and Albania, is the largest on the Balkan Peninsula. The lake well-known for its freshwater biodiversity and is one of the largest bird preserves in Europe – boasting some 270 species – including some of Europe’s last pelicans.

The lake is also abundant in fish, especially in carp, bleak, and eel.

Dotted with small villages along its nearly 130 miles of coastline, the lake has been home to countless generations of fisherman, who have depended on the lake’s bounty to provide for them and their families.

Dragan Petrovic, who lives in Vranjina, Montenegro – on the edge of Lake Skadar – is one such fisherman. A mechanic by trade, Petrovic spends most of his free time on Lake Skadar fishing, supplementing his income and maintaining a connection to the lake he grew up on.

" Here, fishing is in our genetics. After my five day work week, I cannot wait to come out to the lake. "

Dragan Petrovic

fisherman and resident of Vranjina

World Bank Group











Petrovic, like many of his fellow fisherman around the country, spends many hours in a small boat, casting his nets in the hope of snaring one of the dozens of species of fish that are native to Lake Skadar.

Unfortunately, Petrovic’s efforts have been hampered by overfishing on the lake in recent times – much of which is done illegally.

“Nobody can say how many fish they can catch on average. Sometimes we don’t catch anything, trust me, because of weather and illegal fishing.”

Over the last several decades, threats such as illegal fishing, illegal construction, and pressure on Lake Skadar from industry, residential use, and tourism have increased – creating an even greater need for a comprehensive strategy on natural resource management and preservation.

Addressing this need, the World Bank – through a grant from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) – began working with the governments of both Montenegro and Albania in 2008 through the Lake Skadar Integrated Ecosystem Management Project, a project designed to help these countries manage and preserve one of their greatest natural assets: Lake Skadar.


Through the development of public awareness campaigns, trainings, seminars, and other activities, this project helped increase awareness among locals of better natural resource management and preservation practices for the lake.

The project also engaged with local fisherman and fisherman associations – providing assistance and equipment, as well as working to reduce illegal fishing on the lake.

“The World Bank program provided our association with fishing supplies and equipment. We were provided fishing nets and materials for making nets – which significantly helped this poor area, as well as us fishermen.”

" One of the key aspects of our fishermen association is to maintain the quality of water in Lake Skadar. If we can preserve the water, we can preserve the fish. "


When the project began, an estimated 58% of fishermen on the Montenegrin side of the lake were unlicensed – many employing illegal methods to harvest the bounty offered by the lake. By the end of 2012 – when the project closed – this figure had fallen to around 17%.

Surveys also indicated an increase in the understanding of – and engagement in – sustainable tourism and natural resource management among locals.

“One of the key aspects of our fishermen association is to maintain the quality of water in Lake Skadar. If we can preserve the water, we can preserve the fish,” notes Petrovic.

Today, fisherman and tourists continue to use and enjoy Lake Skadar – just as they have for generations. The only difference is that improvements in natural resource management and a decrease in illegal fishing are now helping to ensure that they continue to do so well into the future.

species live in Lake Skadar, the largest on the Balkan Peninsula
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