Story | 13 Feb, 2023

Commitments to save the Blue Heart of Europe

Freshwater conservation was in the focus at the CBD COP15 Biodiversity Summit in Montreal, when IUCN hosted a side event on “Conserving the Vjosa-Aoos River”, with participation of Mr. Ryan Gellert, CEO Patagonia, H.E. Dr Mirela Kumbaro, Minister of Tourism and Environment, Albania, H.E. Mr. Georgios Amyras, Deputy Minister of the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy, IUCN’s Europe and North America Directors, among others.

The event promoted and recognized new partnerships, collaboration and support to turn the design and designation of conservation areas into continuous and successful results for people and nature. It demonstrated real tangible action to secure the integrity of the whole Vjosa-Aoos River in Albania and Greece and new commitments were made to protect this unique and valuable freshwater system, including a pledge by Greek Deputy Environment Minister Georgios Amyras for full protection of Aoos River.

The Vjosa River and its free-flowing tributaries in Albania is expected to be declared as a Wild River National Park by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Albania in spring 2023. This work is a unique partnership between Government, civil society, international agencies, and the private sector, convened by Patagonia, involving many local and regional conservation organizations, and using IUCN international standards and expertise.

The IUCN Protected Area Management Categories help frame conservation objectives and align operations with the highest IUCN international best-practice, including the IUCN Green List Standard for effective area-based conservation. A certificate was presented to Minister Kumbaro, recognising the design and conception of the Vjosa Wild River National Park being in line with the IUCN Category II management classification.

Through collaborative protected area design led by the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment, supported by Patagonia, and undertaken by an expert team of local and international scientists and practitioners, the IUCN Category II: National Park has been applied to Vjosa Wild River National Park to help guide future management and ensure successful implementation.