First-Ever Research on Prespa Lakes Fish Shows Trout and Barbel are Endangered Species in Need of Action

A first-ever publication [pdf] in the region illustrating all fish living in the Prespa Lakes, recently published by UNDP, offers practical information on what the local population, the scientific community and the decision makers could do to ensure the long-term survival of the lakes’ most endangered fish, such as the Prespa Trout and the Prespa Barbel.

Experts reveal that there are currently 23 different species of fish living in the Prespa Lakes, 8 of which are endemic.

The Prespa Trout and the Prespa Barbel are among the most endangered ones. Threatened by pollution and over-fishing, urgent action is needed to ensure their conservation.

For the past year, the Hydrobiological Institute - Ohrid and the Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture “Hydra” - Tirana have been working together with UNDP to collect data on the Prespa fish population.

“This research is part of the first ever transboundary fisheries management plan for Prespa - currently under preparation. The plan will contain recommendations to help decision makers improve the management of the important fish species”, UNDP/GEF Prespa Project Manager, Dimitrija Sekovski, says.

The Prespa Lakes are among the oldest freshwater lakes in the world. Originating from dramatic changes in the earth’s crust several million years ago, their waters have nurtured many unique forms of life.

Surviving to such a great age, the Prespa lakes and the life within them have endured many environmental challenges—none so threatening to their survival, however, as the ongoing impact of human activities.


Since the late 20th century the ecosystem of the Prespa lakes has been subject to the dramatic impacts of over-abundant plant growth and reduced water levels due to over-exploitation for irrigation and climate change.

The water transparency of the lakes, for example, is now 30–70 per cent lower than it was only fifteen years ago. Winter water temperatures have decreased by approximately 4оС over the last twenty years as a result of reductions in the water level.


“The general ecosystem of the lakes is degenerating at a rapid pace, impoverishing their biodiversity. Our latest data shows that the Prespa Lakes are now undergoing traumatic changes. The fish species and habitats are particularly at risk. All of us need to do more to protect them”, Zoran Spirkovski, Head of the Ohrid Hydrobiological Institute’s Fisheries Department, says.

The Integrated Ecosystem Management in the Prespa Lakes Basin project is implemented by UNDP with financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Its overall objective  is to help the region’s people with long term economic and social development, conserve the rich biodiversity and protect the waters of the Prespa Lakes Basin.