The Adriatic Sea is one of the most valued resources in Croatia. Fisheries and tourism are economies that mostly depend on the health of marine environment. While providing significant income, these also carry potential to negatively influence marine environment and biodiversity. Today, there are various means to protect the marine environment, including national parks and nature parks, but also networks of protected areas, with Natura 2000 network being one of the best known networks. However, management of protected areas in Croatia is mostly based on “top-down” approach, meaning decisions that can influence local communities that are closely dependent on protected areas are made by the governing bodies, with little input from the locals. This way, local communities are often left out of the process of making decisions that ultimately influence their everyday life. This problem has been recognized by civil society organizations (CSOs) which provide one mechanism for public involvement in decision making. Croatian membership in EU further enhances potential mechanisms to include local communities in decision making in issues concerning well-being of common resources. Although these mechanisms exist, they are not yet sufficiently recognized by the public. Additional problems are insufficient awareness of the socio-economic potentials that MPAs carry and poor cooperation between CSOs, public institution for managing protected areas and local stakeholders. Poor cooperation is even more pronounced when dealing with issues related to marine environment, which does not recognize man-made administrative borders.
To address the above problems, the Blue World Institute developed and conducted the project Partnership for Sustainable Use of Common Marine Resources – Marine Partnership. The project was conducted between September 2014 and February 2016, in partnership with: Blue World Vis, Association for Nature and Environment Conservation and Sustainable Development Argonauta, the Nature Protected Areas Management Institution Priroda, and the National Park Kornati. It was funded by the European Union Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance and the Croatian Office for Cooperation with NGOs.
The general aim of the action was protection of biodiversity of the Adriatic Sea, focusing primarily on Natura 2000 areas of Primorsko-Goranska, Šibensko-Kninska and Splitsko-Dalmatinska counties, through partnership between stakeholders. To achieve the general aim, the following objectives were identified:
- Strengthened capacity of project partner organizations for further networking and involvement in conservation of marine environment;
- Increased motivation and capacity of local stakeholders for application of sustainability principles in everyday conduct and participation in decision making;
- Creation of partnership between CSOs, public institutions for managing protected areas and local stakeholders.
As a part of the Marine partnership project we have developed a multi-functional website (www.marinepartnership.org) to communicate the project’s goals, activities and results to the public and to stimulate public participation in decision making and biodiversity monitoring. Besides general information on the subject of marine environment protection, the website also features a data entry form for reporting sightings of rare, endangered or protected marine species.