Control of fisheries has been strengthened
From its initial application in 2009 to the Intergovernmental Conference on accession negotiations earlier this year, Albania has come a long way in its endeavours to join the EU. Frida Krifca, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, discusses here issues facing Albania’s fisheries and aquaculture sector including the task of aligning national legislation with the EU acquis.
Albania is implementing the provisions of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement as a step towards EU membership. In its status report for 2021 the European Commission points to the lack of sufficient staff in inspection and control. What are the reasons for this and has the situation been remedied? What parts of the CFP remain to be adopted into Albanian legislation?
Albania has taken measures to increase the capacities of the fisheries inspectorate. New staff have been recruited, increasing the number of fishing inspectors and guaranteeing 24/7 control at the four fisheries ports. Also, in the framework of the IPA 2016 Project “Fishing Blue – Support for the fisheries sector in Albania” which is financed by the EU, training sessions were conducted for staff of the fisheries inspectorate with the aim of increasing the capacities of this inspectorate. Likewise, at sea and on land control manuals for the fisheries inspectorate have been prepared and distributed, and all fisheries legislation has been published for fishing operators and the fisheries inspectorate. Within the framework of this project, 11 fisheries inspectors have been trained and certified as national observers for all activities related to tuna fishing, according to ICCAT requirements. In September 2022, the fisheries inspectorate will be equipped with 2 control vessels, donated from the EU, which will provide a great help in increasing the control of fishing activity
Albania has opened negotiations with the EU for membership. This is a long process which will require a great deal of work for the fisheries administration and the transformation of the sector to align with EU standards. Albanian legislation is generally in line with the EU acquis, but a lot of work is required for the whole sector to be made compliant with the Common Fisheries Policy. Recently, the new fishing strategy was approved, within the framework of the Strategy for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fishing 2021-2027, with the support of GIZ, which prepares the fisheries sector and brings it closer to the EU.
VMS is used to monitor the activities of the Albanian fishing fleet while fisheries inspectors control the smaller vessels. This year (2022) electronic logbooks are scheduled to be introduced to increase the transparency of fishing activities. While these measures benefit managers and policy makers, what has been the response of the fishermen?
The ERS system, the electronic logbook, is planned to be implemented in 2024. During 2022, the legal foundation will be prepared, in accordance with EU legislation, and during 2023, TORs for its establishment will be prepared and the tendering procedures will be carried out. The implementation of this system is expected to increase the transparency of fishing activities. There will be a long process of consultations with interest groups, but the process of joining the EU requires an increase in fishing standards as well. The interest groups are aware of the necessity of its implementation and the process is advancing as MARD (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) has planned.
Albania is a signatory to the 2018 ministerial declaration on a regional plan of action for small scale fisheries (SSF) in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The plan envisages several actions1 in relation to data collection, scientific research, SSF management, climate change adaptation, sustainability etc. over the 10 years to 2028. Which actions are being given priority by the ministry? How does the ministry encourage the organisation of the SSF?
Small Scale Fisheries are an important component of Albanian fisheries and as such receive special attention from MARD. The ministry improved the fishing law by approximating a part of Regulation (EU) no. 1379/2013, of the European Parliament and of the Council, dated December 11, 2013, “On the common organization of markets for fishery and aquaculture products”. Measures have been taken to improve the technical rules concerning the sector‘s development, and a support package is being prepared to regularise informal operations in the sector.
What has been the impact of the corona virus on the Albanian fisheries and aquaculture sector? What measures were implemented by the government to assist the sector? Would you say that activity has returned to its pre-pandemic level?
The impact of the coronavirus was primarily felt in the decrease in demand as a result of the closure of part of the country‘s markets that consume fish products. The processing industry also saw a reduction in activity despite the growing demand for processed products both on the domestic and international markets. However, despite this, there was an increase in exports of Albanian products in 2020 and 2021 although not at the level of previous years.
Another issue is the impact of the war in Ukraine, which has brought about an increase in the price of fuel for fishing. The first six months of 2022 was a difficult period for marine fisheries, which saw a reduction in fishing activity. To assist fishers with this situation, MARD decided to support the sector by subsidising fishing fuel with 40 lek/litre. This support will be implemented in the second half of 2022 and will compensate some of the additional costs arising from the price increase.
What is the status of the fish auction at Shengjin? Has it contributed to greater transparency in pricing, the removal of middlemen, and better prices for the fishers? Does it facilitate the distribution and sale of fish and seafood products? The new wholesale market at Vlora is scheduled to open this year. What has been the response from fishers and seafood traders to these new structures?
Wholesale fish markets are a priority for MARD. The Shengjin wholesale fish market is in the final stages of being transferred to Lezha Municipality as duties and responsibilities are defined and assigned. The wholesale fish market in Vlora is completed and the fisheries management organization (FMO) in Vlora has applied to manage it. MARD is in dialogue with the FMO to determine the conditions, duties, and responsibilities, related to the transfer of this structure.
Producer organisations (POs) are an integral feature of the Common Market Organisation one of the pillars of the Common Fisheries Policy. POs organise fishers and farmers to jointly pursue objectives listed in the CMO regulation including sustainability, food security, and growth and employment. Do you see this as a useful instrument for the Albanian fisheries and aquaculture sector? Is the legal framework for the creation of POs in place?
As mentioned above, the amendments to law no. 64/2012 “On fisheries” as well as the changes in the law no. 103/2016 “On Aquaculture” as a partial approximation of Regulation (EU) no. 1379/2013, of the European Parliament and of the Council, dated December 11, 2013, “On the common organization of markets for fishery and aquaculture products” establishes the basic rules for the creation and recognition of Producer Organizations, as an important instrument for the regulation of the sector. Also, the conditions that these organizations must fulfil to be recognized by MARD have been defined and approved. Minister‘s Order no. 357, dated 29.7.2022 “On the adoption of the regulation on the determination of additional conditions for the recognition of production organizations” has been approved.
Fisheries management organisations have been established to manage freshwater resources in several Albanian lakes. How do you assess their usefulness and reliability as partners of the administration in questions of fisheries management. Has the delegation of responsibility to the FMOs resulted in improved stock status, less illegal fishing, and stable catches?
Fisheries management organisations in Albania were created as an important management instrument where interest groups played the main role. FMOs extend to inland and marine waters. MARD has given the management of the fishing port of Durres to FMO-Durres and is in the process of transferring the wholesale fish market of Vlora to FMO-Vlorea. FMOs contribute to the management of the sector through co-management, where the ministry delegates powers related to the management of the fishing activity. Regardless of whether the fishing law provides for forms of organization such as FMOs or Producer Organizations, we are of the opinion that FMOs will gradually transform into OPs covering the entire production chain, from the factory to the final consumer.
A World Bank report suggests that the yield from capture fisheries is unlikely to increase very much over time and the future for Albanian seafood production lies in the aquaculture sector. Do you agree with this assessment? What measures are being implemented to boost aquaculture production in Albania? Have allocated zones for aquaculture (AZA) been identified and legally implemented?
We agree with the assessment of the World Bank. The increase in demand for fish products, not only in Albania but also at the global level, will be fulfilled through the increase in production from aquaculture. Global assessments predict that demand for fish products will double by 2030. Today, in the Mediterranean the situation of fish stocks is not good with about 85% of the commercial species overfished. Even at the global level, capture fishing industries are in decline, compared to aquaculture, which continues to show substantial growth. MARD has prepared a study for Allocated Zones for Aquaculture (AZA) in the sea and so far one of them has been approved, and others are in the process of negotiation with the Ministry of Tourism and Environment. In addition, this year MARD is funding a study on AZA in internal waters which will be carried out by the Agricultural University of Tirana with the technical assistance of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.