Macedonia and Albania to tackle illegal fishing

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Macedonia and Albania are taking measures to suppress growing organised crime involving the illegal catch and distribution of fish across the border in the Prespa and Ohrid lakes areas, officials said.

Ohrid police detained six members of a group of Albanian and Macedonian citizens last month for smuggling a large quantity of fish from Albania.

Police said smugglers illegally catch the fish — usually carp and bleak — then illegally cross the border to Macedonia on foot and leave the catch in buckets. Afterwards they cross the border in large vehicles, pick up the buckets and take the fish to potential buyers.

“[This time] the police stopped them on the regional road to St. Naum,” the Macedonian interior ministry in a statement.

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“We continuously take measures to strengthen controls on water and on land. We co-operate with the Ohrid port authority, the security protection concessionaire and the police in Albania with which we conduct joint patrols,” Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson for the interior ministry of Macedonia.

Macedonian police filed charges against 10 people this year for illegal fishing — six Macedonian and four Albanian citizens.

Local authorities said they intensified checks of fish markets and restaurants in Ohrid and Struga to determine the origin of the fish. In one day (August 1st) inspectors confiscated 30 kilograms of fish for lack of documentation on origin and levied fines of 3,500 euros. “Individuals often offer fish for cash at prices far lower than the market price,” Borce Pavlov, owner of a restaurant in Prilep.

But penalties for buying illegal fish are high; they range up to several thousand euros and can include closing down the restaurant, he added. To provide an additional measure against poachers, the Ohrid port authority hired the security firm Trout 2012 last year.

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