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We must not allow fishermen to become waiters or restaurateurs!

The round table discussion on 'EU Biodiversity Strategy by 2030 - a Common Approach for Protecting 30% of the Adriatic Sea' provided answers to some of the most crucial questions regarding the protection of our seas in accordance with the future European Regulation on nature protection.

SPLIT - Without effective management of protected areas and without the cooperation of all stakeholders in implementing the future Environmental Protection Regulation, Croatia will have a difficult time responding to the UN's '30x30' initiative, which aims to designate 30% of the Earth's land and 30% of its marine areas as protected by 2030. The European Commission has also committed to this in its European Green Deal, and Croatia will thus strengthen the protection of marine areas in the Adriatic. These were the conclusions of the round table organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in cooperation with the Representation of the European Commission in the Republic of Croatia.
Do we have the capacity to achieve such ambitious plans in Croatia? What do fishermen think about this issue, and do we have the finances in place to achieve such protection? These are some of the questions that were addressed by Ante Mišura, Director of the Fisheries Directorate at the Ministry of Agriculture, Aljoša Duplić, Director of the Environmental Protection and Nature Conservation Institute at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, Hana Huzjak, Advisor for the implementation of the European Semester at the Representation of the European Commission in Croatia, Stjepan Nedoklan, President of the Guild of Fisheries and Aquaculture at the Croatian Chamber of Crafts, Nedo Vrgoč, Assistant to the Director of the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, and Patrik Krstinić, Head of the Marine Program at WWF Adria.
What are the obligations, and what are just proposals? Is Croatia already working on new plans for establishing protected areas and their management? Where can we find the budget to realize such an ambitious plan? These are some of the open topics discussed.
Dunja Mazzocco Drvar, Director of the Conservation Program at WWF Adria, who opened the panel in Split, emphasized that there is a wealth of scientific evidence showing how nature positively affects human health. "Science clearly shows that nature is humanity's main ally in mitigating climate change and adapting to it. Nature is currently in poor condition globally, largely due to human activities. Approximately one million species are facing extinction, ecosystems are being destroyed at an alarming rate. At WWF, we advocate for the adoption of an ambitious Nature Protection Regulation that will have clear deadlines, objectives, and funding sources, because we are aware that every euro invested in nature restoration generates 8 to 9 euros of added value in the economy and society. We care about fishermen and fish, farmers and bees; we value all green habitats in urban areas and agricultural lands, as well as all marine grasses covering only 0.1% of the marine surface but conserving almost 18% of the carbon in the oceans. I believe that all of us are committed to ensuring the survival of nature, not just because it will be our obligation, but because we genuinely believe it is important," emphasized Mazzocco Drvar.
Croatia is doing well in terms of land protection, with over 36% of protected areas, but protection of the Adriatic Sea is relatively weak, at around 12%. With the European Commission's ambitions for even stricter protection, aiming for 10%, Croatia will not be able to achieve the proposed goals, as it currently has less than 1% under strict protection. Participants at the conference propose a point-based strict protection, which means having multiple smaller areas throughout the Adriatic instead of prohibiting fishing in tens of kilometers, while still meeting the overall percentage of the requested protection.
Panelists agreed that, along with an official working group involving all relevant stakeholders to contribute to the future plans for restoration, achieving a high level of protection can only be possible if the ministry responsible for environmental protection prioritizes the adoption and implementation of the Nature Protection Regulation. Therefore, it is crucial for Croatia to actively advocate for a high protection percentage of 30% within the future discussion in the Council of the European Union, following the European Commission's proposal. It is also essential that communication with the public is transparent and timely, that deadlines are clear, and that a budget sufficient for the realization of such an ambitious plan is secured. Increasing protection, as all panelists agreed, is not something we do just for nature, but for the future of all of us.
During the round table, there was a discussion about the recommendation to ban trawling in all protected areas by 2030, which sparked a debate among attending fishermen. However, representatives of institutions emphasized the importance of trawling and were not in favor of a ban. The necessity of establishing protected areas in those parts of our sea important for species and habitats, rather than focusing solely on the easiest-to-protect zones like the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), was also discussed. Fishermen expressed their willingness to cooperate, scientists are already studying parts of the sea suitable for strict or partial protection, and the non-governmental sector highlighted the need for involvement from the Ministry of the Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Tourism, as well as the counties, due to the nautical pressure on the Adriatic Sea."

Ante Mišura: With effective management plans and protection, our biggest challenges lie in the administration and deadlines within the Fisheries Directorate. It is crucial to reconcile the nature conservation sector and the fishing sector. Achieving 10% will be challenging... 30% would be easier.

Aljoša Duplić: Let's not view this 30% protection as an obligation but as an opportunity for ourselves. We need to utilize the available funding and secure a future for ourselves and our descendants, leaving something behind. Let's ensure fishermen have jobs, resources, and access to genuine fish stocks.

Patrik Krstinić: We all must accept collective responsibility rather than pointing fingers at trawlers or anyone else. Today, we've heard diverse opinions, but we all agree that better marine and protected area management is essential. This needs to be incorporated into legal regulations, enabling us to participate in rule-making and subsequent implementation.

Stjepan Nedoklan: Fishermen have many uncertainties. Are we talking about 30% protection only in the Croatian part of the Adriatic, or are we sharing this with other countries bordering the Adriatic Sea? The guidelines promised by the European Commission in 2021 are still missing. In any case, I advocate for a collaborative approach to protection, similar to what we've done for Jabuka Island or the Telašćica Nature Park, where no-take zones already exist.

Hana Huzjak: In the autumn of 2023, a working group will be established to address action plans for '30x30'. Among other things, they will provide answers to all questions and uncertainties. The preparation of action plans is taking place at the local and national levels, emphasizing transparency, dialogue, and collaboration.

Nedo Vrgoč: I'm not a proponent of mathematical divisions; why exactly 30%? Spatial-temporal measures are more critical. Marine protection must be proportionate to the existing conditions. For example, the Italian fleet is three to four times stronger than ours, so they should be responsible for a proportionally higher percentage of protection.
30x30 round table

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