Tuesday, 30 June 2020 14:35

Albanian fishers can soon earn international qualifications at home

EM3 20 ALThis article featured in EUROFISH Magazine 3 2020.

A project consortium with partners from Albania and Croatia intends to improve the skills of fishermen by developing a master’s degree in marine fisheries and by upgrading vocational training to provide Albanian fishermen with internationally recognized skills. The agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors are the main employers in Albania with a share of more than 40%. With regards to fisheries, Albania, as an EU candidate country, is obliged to conduct reforms before it can implement the EU Common Fisheries Policy. At the same time, there is a trend to expand the Albanian fishing fleet with more trawlers and purse seiners. Compared to other Mediterranean fishing fleets, however, Albania’s fleet is small, accounting for less than 1% of the total.

Steep growth in fishing sector

Fishing has been one of the most rapidly growing sectors in recent years, mainly due to policies on subsidies that the Albanian government has implemented recently, and the growing demand from the fish processing industry. However, the continued growth of the sector is hampered by a gap in human resources. In Albania, except for the secondary fishing school established in Durres in 2003, there are no other training institutions to meet the needs of the sector for qualified personnel. The limited knowledge and experience of fishers in the use of modern practices and technology is one of the major barriers to the development of the Albanian fishery sector. Moreover, in blue growth sectors (aquaculture, fisheries and navigation) no efforts have been made to offer Vocational Educational Training (VETs) or create Higher Education Institutions (HEI). The ALMARS project will respond to the demand for skilled personnel in the growing commercial fishing industry in Albania by introducing a professional master’s programme in the field of marine fisheries.

Enhancing collaboration and knowledge

EM3 20 AL2The ALMARS Erasmus+ project was approved and started in 2019. It will last for three years and aims to enhance the marine fishery industry in Albania by: − Developing a new professional master’s degree in marine fishery that will meet market needs; − Enhancing collaboration among blue growth stakeholders through the development of a networking platform; − Improving maritime training centres that provide professional training to seafarers on fishing vessels. The new master’s curriculum in marine fishery will be developed by scientific experts from the fields of marine biology, aquaculture, and fisheries in collaboration with marine industry stakeholders. The curriculum will provide students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills, which is expected to have a positive impact on their ability to find employment. Other activities are also planned for example, the creation of a networking platform which will unite stakeholders active in the field of marine fisheries, including educational institutions and their alumni, private industry, and organizations. The platform will provide stakeholders with opportunities for new partnerships, the exchange of know-how, access to the most recent market information, trends in the sector, qualified staff and/or employment opportunities. Improving the maritime training centre for professional marine fishermen is a logical activity of this project. Courses offered by the training centre do not currently comply with IMO standards or the requirements of EU legislation. Trained seafarers therefore do not possess the competencies and skills which are recognized internationally and/or satisfy safety needs, environmental concerns, or overall maritime security standards. Developing new basic and advanced courses for professional seafarers that are aligned with IMO standards will have a positive impact on environment protection, and on pollution and safety hazards, and will improve fishing efficiency and create opportunities for international collaboration.

Wide range of stakeholders will contribute

The project consortium is composed of different stakeholders that are actively contributing to the marine fishery industry. Local partners range from universities that already offer marine-related study programs, through private companies whose core business is in the fishing industry, to the Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the fishing sector’s highest authority. The project has nine partners: the University of Split in Croatia (project coordinator), Agricultural University of Tirana, University of Vlora “Ismail Qemali”, Aleksandër Moisiu University of Durrës, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Fisheries and Aquaculture Services Directorate, Tirana, AlbAdriatico2013 Ltd., Albamar and EUROFISH. The involvement of such a variety of stakeholders will assure the quality of the project’s results and its sustainability.

Development of master’s degree well under way

The project’s first step was an analysis of the current status of the fishing industry in Albania. This provided a detailed overview of the existing educational opportunities and resources in Albania and the structure of the fishing industry, the number of stakeholders and their needs in terms of human resources. This analysis provided insights that were used in the development of a curriculum for the new professional master’s degree in marine fishery. After designing a curriculum based on the experience of the University of Split, which organizes undergraduate, graduate and doctoral courses in marine fishery, and on the competencies at three Albanian universities, the curriculum was approved by departments, faculties as well as the senates of three universities. That was a prerequisite for sending the curriculum to the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth for final approval, which was done in mid-February 2020. Study tours were planned for Albanian participants to Italy and Denmark in 2020 but they have, so far, been postponed because of the current situation with the coronavirus.

EM3 20 AL3For more information:
Prof. Alen Soldo, PhD in Marine Fisheries
Project Coordinator Department of Marine Studies
University of Split
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