Western Balkans: Scientists and NGO representatives call for more rivers to be protected as part of the Emerald Network

Western Balkans: Scientists and NGO representatives call for more rivers to be protected as part of the Emerald Network

Today, a group of scientists and non-governmental organisations from 11 countries have published a list of 88 rivers they consider high priority for protection, urging Western Balkan Bern Convention signatory countries to expand the Emerald Network in the region.

Established by the Council of Europe in 1989 under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), the Emerald Network is made up of areas of special conservation interest to conserve wild flora and fauna in their natural habitats.

As signatories of the Bern Convention, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia started the establishment of the Emerald Network in 2011, when they proposed a small number of sites. However, since then none of the countries have expanded their original list of sites, most sites lack legal protection under national law, management, consistent data collection, and resources, leaving most rivers and fish populations unprotected.

The list of rivers published today results from the Emerald Green seminar organised by CEE Bankwatch Network in December 2022, where participants provided scientific data on fish species and habitats.

As a global biodiversity hotspot, the Western Balkans boasts exceptional freshwater diversity. The region’s extensive mountains, rivers, lakes, and coastlines are home to numerous endangered species and important habitats with numerous endemic species that can be found nowhere else. Compared to the rest of Europe, most of the region’s rivers are in good or pristine condition, and many are ideal candidates for protection, as recognized by the priority list published today.

Aleksandër Trajçe, Executive Director: “Albania boasts a very rich network of rivers and streams that flow freely to this day and host an incredible biodiversity, including rare and threatened species on the European level. The proposal to include these rivers and streams in the Emerald network is a major step in the right direction for ensuring their long-term protection and safeguarding the invaluable biodiversity that they host”.


Aleksandër Trajçe, Executive Director


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Mob: + 355 4 562 8954

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