The Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation was founded in 1999. The Blue World Institute is an independent non-profit organisation set up with the intention to carry out scientific research and conservation of the marine environment as well as educational activities, with an emphasis on the Adriatic Sea and the wider Mediterranean basin. Our three main programmes – research, education and conservation – provide a framework for executing multiple projects aimed at furthering the understanding of the marine environment, its flagships species, and public participation in their protection.
Recognising their invaluable role in the ecosystem, our research focuses on large marine vertebrates with an aim to contribute to the protection and conservation of the whole marine environment. This is achieved through cooperation with competent authorities, development of innovative management measures, creation of partnerships with relevant stakeholders and involvement of the public through awareness-raising and education. Research on protected species is conducted under permits issued by relevant authorities following national legislation of the countries where we operate and is carried out following a set of voluntary adopted set of standards and norms ensuring animal welfare. In recent years, we have expended the geographical aspect of our research to open bases on Vis Island (2008) and in Murter Island (2013). Furthermore, with partner organisations we supported the development of surveying programs in Montenegro, Italy and Albania. Bringing all of this work together with the aim of providing basin wide data, we conducted aerial surveys of the whole Adriatic Sea in 2010 and 2013. The results of these surveys present the first ever data on distribution and abundance of cetaceans, sea turtles and giant devil rays in the Adriatic and are setting the reference point for a regular monitoring programme.
An education programme is a core tool in delivering accurate and evidence-based knowledge on the state and status of the marine environment, endangered species and assisting conservation efforts. Through specialised and tailored education activities, we convey knowledge gained through our research to all age groups and backgrounds. The programme for kindergartens and schools is being continuously updated and has been approved by Croatian Ministry of Science and Education as appropriate content for regular school curriculum. In 2003, the Blue World Institute opened the first dedicated marine education centre on the Adriatic coast to advance its work. The centre hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as interactive multimedia presentations. In addition, the centre organises workshops and lectures for professionals and visitors. The centre is our main hub for exchange and interaction with the public and is open all year round. In the near future, we plan to open a new Marine Science Museum in the harbour of Mali Lošinj with the support of the local government.
The Blue World Institute led several national and international conservation activities. Through our efforts, the waters of Kvarnerić were declared the first Dolphin Reserve in the Mediterranean Sea in 2006, which later became a Natura 2000 site. Our efforts have led to the development of one of the largest networks of European Natura 2000 sites for bottlenose dolphins. We are working with relevant stakeholders to expand this network towards offshore areas and identify similar areas for loggerhead turtles. Our initiative lead to a proposal for establishment of the first marine peace park in the Adriatic Sea in 2013, as a means for both marine conservation and resolution of the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia. Through series of international publications and book chapters, we are furthering transboundary conservation at a global scale. Since 2004, the Blue World Institute is an official organisation partner of the international Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS). Through its work, the BWI provided expertise in setting national standards for carrying out of seismic activities and mitigation of impacts on marine fauna. As part of the NETCET Project, which commenced in 2012, the Blue World Institute expanded its conservation work on sea turtles. In 2013, we opened our Marine Turtle Rescue Centre in Mali Lošinj which is a restorative measure supporting the rehabilitation of endangered marine turtles. As a continuation of this work we are cooperating with international partners in the LIFE Euroturtles Project and, in the near future, we will further develop, expand and upgrade our rescue centre with the assistance of local partners.
Apart from continuous development of new research activities, monitoring of coastal bottlenose dolphin local communities in the Adriatic, collaboration with partners, and numerous educational activities, the Blue World Institute plans for the next triennium include the identification and development of new conservation areas for sea turtles and bottlenose dolphins in the off-shore areas of the Adriatic, an aerial survey of cetacean and sea turtle abundance and distribution in 2018, the development of the Marine Science Museum construction project, expanding management plans for Natura 2000 areas for bottlenose dolphins, and further engaging the local communities in applied conservation work.