Big, fat, oily fish that belong to the Cyprinidae family are like gold to the people living around Lake Shkodra in Albania, the biggest lagoon in the Balkan region. Cooked according to an ancient recipe, the carp casserole is a delicious tourist attraction. There isn’t much agriculture at the feet of Taraboshi mountain in the Albanian Alps but the rocky landscape provides the perfect terrain for olive trees. Nature thrives here too. Over 800 types of seaweed, over 250 species of birds and 50 different types of fish live within an area that overlaps into Montenegro - there’s an invisible border crossing the silver lake. Once the heart of Old Illyria, the place is filled with picturesque fishermen’s villages.

Fishing being more of a man’s thing, at the end of the night all the local men from the villages take to the lake in small boats, armed with throw nets. But this picturesque postcard image has been threatened by a sharp rise in illegal fishing. With the severe decline in the most valued species - such as carp - only meagre pickings are left for the locals. Families can no longer rely on the unstable outcome of their aquatic catches for their survival. That’s why Nebije Qotaj, a woman with silky jet-black hair, then in her late 20s and a mother of three, decided she had to do something. She started with what she knows best. 

Text: Marta Galli
Photos: Pauline Thurn und Taxis