The first significant project of the Blue World Institute’s conservation programme was the designation of the Cres-Lošinj special zoological reserve for bottlenose dolphins, later transformed into a Site of Community Importance (SCI) of the European Union Natura 2000 Ecological Network in December 2014. Originally proposed as a protected area in 1992, the story of the protected area has had many twists and turns.
This marine Natura 2000 site has perhaps the most extensive biological data supporting its designation in Croatia. The dolphins in the region have been studied and monitored consistently since 1990. Some of the individuals first identified in the 1990s we have watched mature and become parents and in some cases grandparents. This extensive data from the Adriatic Dolphin Project gives significant weight to the argument that this is an important region for this population. However, as well as helping to conserve the bottlenose dolphins, this site will help protect a number of other endangered species and critical habitats for species of conservation concern.
This area is an important site for the Mediterranean population of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), the Mediterranean endemic seagrass (Posidonia oceanica), coral biocenoses, and nesting sites of the common European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis). Surveys in this region have identified 152 species of marine flora, 303 species of marine invertebrates (7 strictly protected, 9 protected) and 112 species of fish (19 endangered species in Croatia) within the area.
In addition to the natural heritage, there is also an important cultural heritage. In 1999, an original Greek bronze statue, a priceless replica of Lysyppos’s Apoxyomenos, was found near the island of Orjule in the very middle of the Natura 2000 site. This bronze is now hosted in the Apoxyomenos Museum in Mali Lošinj.