“If we don't understand why nature protection matters, it's hard to assume our kids will care about it. That's why I've applied for the WWF Nature Academy – I want to learn, to act, to spread the word, to protect” said one of the teachers involved in the WWF Academy for Nature in Serbia. WWF and protected areas managers are striving to create a network which is both self-sustainable, relevant and demonstrates benefits to people. Sonja Badjura, WWF education officer and leader of the Academy, is more than happy with the success of the venture. “We reach the youngest members of the community and their teachers and parents. A teacher and a student from 10 schools are trained to become ambassadors of five protected areas included in a regional project. Throughout the school year participants learn about ecological footprints, active citizenship, project management and media relations. The team spirit is wonderful.” “We should spend more time outside, nature is the best classroom”, a student added, while the teacher concluded: “The Academy has reminded me how beautiful and playful teaching can be”. The first Academy cycle ends in June 2017 and it is hoped that the programme will expand to other countries in the region.
In Algeria engaging local fishermen in a booming tourist economy at Taza National Park helps to increase their income and builds their support for MPAs. Nadia Ramdane, local manager of a WWF Mediterranean project and now head of the local Fishery Department and the interim Director of Taza National Park, has spent the last 7 years working with and involving the local fishery community in the process of creating a new MPA. “It is crucial to promote alternative sustainable economic activities for fishermen” says Nadia. A pilot project at Taza means that fishermen can generate alternative income by hosting tourists onboard and promote the uniqueness of their artisanal fishing culture. The initiative has resulted in a change in Algerian law, with a national commission developing legislation to regulate this new activity. It is now regarded as a model by other fishing communities eager to reduce fishing effort and replenish fish stocks. “In North Africa people are really taking their futures into their own hands and valuing nature and the benefits it can bring.”
Imagine crystal streams, wild rivers, gorges, spectacular waterfalls and majestic forests. Then picture the effect that dams and hydropower plants will have on this breathtaking natural beauty. From Slovenia to Albania more than 2,700 hydropower projects are planned for the near future, with 113 dams in national parks. But what if we could halt this dam tsunami by gathering local people, NGOs and policy makers to protect Balkan rivers? This is what WWF Adria, with other environmental NGOs, has achieved with a massive campaign, culminating in the Balkan Rivers Tour. Hundreds of kayakers and their supporters gathered on the banks of the Sava in Slovenia in April to begin a 35-day journey along 23 rivers in 6 countries, sending a powerful message to governments and decision makers. The Tour, and WWF’s conservation and policy activities, contributed to some great results: a reassessment of hydropower plants on the Soca river in Slovenia, the Montenegrin Government adopted e-flow regulation and reevaluated plans for the Morača hydropower project, the Albanian Prime Minister is considering a moratorium on dams. Along with European warnings to several Balkan governments on the need to better integrate nature and water directives in hydropower planning and development, there is renewed hope that the most valuable rivers of Europe will remain wild and free.
"The Balkan Rivers Tour was a crazy grass roots idea that grew into the biggest European river conservation action just in 6 months because we joined forces at all levels. Fighting for free flowing rivers is our common goal no matter if we are a small or big NGO, an expert limnologist or just a kayaker. All it takes is an open mind and true passion. WWF Adria believed in our idea from the start and proved that big things can be done with great deal of determination and creative approach. Together we did – and more important we are still doing – great things to protect these amazing rivers."Rok Rozman, Slovenian Olympic athlete and founder of Leeway Collective, leader of the Balkan Rivers Tour.
Throughout the Mediterranean very different actions are required to face the challenge of threats to water ecosystems. In North Africa a scarcity of water is compounded by climate change. The MedWet Civil Society Network, 18 NGOs from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, supported by WWF, are working together to promote the conservation and wise use of priority North African wetlands. WWF played an important role in establishing the world wetland city accreditation, an idea born in the small village of Ghar El Melah lagoon and promoted at various wetland events, before being approved by Ramsar. The World Wetland City label promotes regional and international co-operation, and brings sustainable benefits to local people. And in Morocco, after many years of collaboration with the Sebou Basin Agency, we are finally seeing the concept of ecological-flow being mainstreamed in the Agency’s plans for water allocation.
Pedro Lima, actor and ambassador of WWF in Portugal, is concerned about the state of our oceans. “I love the sea and I am worried that there could be no fish left in the future for our children.” Pedro is particularly enthusiastic about WWF‘s Fish Forward project encouraging consumers, businesses and authorities in 11 european countries towards responsible consumption of fish and seafood. With “Whale“, a WWF sustainable seafood installation at Lisbon’s Oceanario last summer, WWF Mediterranean was able to reach thousands of consumers. Already visited by 15,000 people in one week at Milan Expo, the Whale reached around 50,000 people at its stop in Barcelona, before being visited by around 600,000 people in Lisbon. "As a consumer, surfer, father of five and as a celebrity I am happy to add my voice to WWF’s messages about the responsibility of choosing wisely the fish we eat” said Pedro.
“Are you scared?” asks Vito Giovanni (Gianni) De Biasi as we bounce through gentle chop in his small fishing boat. I am getting a bit damp from the spray over the bow, but I am not scared. I shake my head, and Gianni smiles. He is clearly as content as can be – master and commander plying the coastal waters of the Adriatic on a sunny May morning.
“If I don’t go to sea every day, I go crazy,” says this lifelong fisherman. In the evenings, he makes pizzas in his hometown of Carovigno. “But at four in the morning, I want to be on my boat at sea,” he says.
This passion drove Gianni to be one of a handful of fisherman who worked with authorities to establish the rules of the game for fishing in Torre Guaceto Marine Protected Area & Nature Reserve on the northern Adriatic coast of Salento, Italy. The 2,227 hectare protected area was established in 1991, and closed entirely for fishing until 2001 to let stocks recover. Read more.