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Kosovo Inspectors Search Lakes in Clampdown on Illegal Fishing

Kosovo Fishermens Federation, with the assistance of the police, inspected the much disputed Ujman/Gazivode lake in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo on Sunday, in an move to implement much flouted laws on fishing.

“For around 24 years since the [Kosovo] war, to this day, no one has inspected [it],” Milaim Vitia, head of the Kosovo Fishermens Federation, told BIRN.

The inspection came one day after Federation inspectors were attacked at another lake. Vermica lake, in Prizren municipality, close to the border with Albania.

“It is a bit dangerous there, so we ask the police to accompany us every time we inspect,” Vitia said, explaining that the Federation is trying to implement the Law on Fishing due to many illegalities and lack of proper inspections.

According to Vitia, around 200 fishermen in the country regularly fish illegally, either by not obtaining proper permits to fish, or by fishing in lakes used for drinking water, such as the Ujman/Gazivode lake.

The strategically important reservoir was created in the 1970s in the north of Kosovo. It is claimed by both Serbia and Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

On Saturday, one day before the inspection in Ujman/Gazivode, Vitia and two other officials of the Fishermens Federation were physically assaulted at Vermice lake after they confiscated illegal fishing nets.

Vitia told BIRN that in the four months he has been the head of the Federation, “we have similar incidents every couple of days because there have not been proper inspections and the law is not being followed”.

“I called the police around 10 times,” Vitia told BIRN about Saturday’s incident in Vermice, claiming that the police “did not arrive until one hour later”.

The Kosovo Federation of  Fishermen and the Kosovo police with some local fishermen during the inspection of Ujman/Gazivode, on Sunday, September 3, 2023. Photo: Kosovo Federation of Fishermen

In a video obtained by BIRN, three men are seen holding a fourth down on his knees at the lake while beating him, with two other men standing by very close. One man has since been arrested and four others have been questioned by the police.

“It took the emergency services an hour and a half to arrive and give us first aid,” Vitia claimed.

Source : balkaninsight