The project “NGO capacity building for the implementation of Natura 2000 priority actions” was funded by the European Union Croatia 2006 PHARE National Programme.

The Croatian marine environment is recognised by the national government, international organisations such as UNDP, WWF, IUCN and the Council of Europe, as one of the key areas of the Mediterranean to be protected. Development, intensive touristic use and fishing in the coastal zone threaten marine biodiversity and habitats. Cetaceans – carnivorous and finned marine mammals – are among the most threatened marine animals; 24 species are known to live, or have lived, in the Mediterranean. Cetaceans are recognised by the IUCN and UNEP as indicators of health of the marine environment. They are also priority species for conservation under the European Habitats Directive.

Cetaceans are recognised by the IUCN and UNEP as indicators of health of the marine environment

This project sought to address three specific problems: missing capacity within the Croatian scientific community to develop and maintain marine research; knowledge gaps on the status and distribution of charismatic megafauna in the Croatian territorial waters; inadequate translation of this knowledge to inform the public.

In addition to the activities described below, the project also allowed for field research in the waters of Vis Island. During May to July 2009, researchers have spent more than 80 hours traversing more than 1000 km in search of dolphins. In 10 encounters with dolphins, 70 individuals were identified, allowing for a better estimate of resident population in the area. The Blue World Institute also held three lectures attended by more than 300 people about the dolphins of the Adriatic Sea, the interaction of dolphins and fisheries, and the protection of dolphins in the Adriatic.

Charismatic megafauna in the Croatian territorial waters

Total project cost was 95,171.75 Euros; the European Commission granted 76,080.30 Euros, the Office for Cooperation with NGOs donated 9,517.18 Euros, and the partners contributed 9,574.28 Euros.

Three workshops were conducted during the project.

Workshop 1

Cetacean Alliance: Building capacity on cetacean research and conservation: establishing synergy between NGOs working in marine conservation in the Adriatic/Mediterranean region. The workshop was held at the Lošinj Marine Education Centre with 17 participants on 15th-17th March 2009. It addressed cutting edge techniques for the collection and analysis of data on cetaceans including devising and undertaking field research programmes and developing conservation programmes.

Workshop 2

Education: held in the Lošinj Marine Education Centre on 10th-14th March 2009, the workshop was divided into two sessions, an internal training of partner NGO staff by researchers from Miramare and Circe and an open session to NGOs, institutes and individuals interested in the topic.

Workshop 3

Governing MPAs: Getting the Balance Right held in Mali Lošinj, 12th-16th October 2009. The workshop was attended by 25 participants, including world-renowned managers and researchers, who presented and discussed 17 case studies of MPA governance. The main objectives of the workshop were to: enable local scientists and volunteers to deepen understanding concerning the methods for developing effective marine conservation; highlight the requirements for marine conservation to comply with international policy; improve the knowledge of the target groups and stimulate international cooperation and exchange of ideas. In the follow up participants prepared a 4,000-word summary of their case study reports, based on the learnings and feedback during the workshop. Results and key messages from the case study summaries were analysed using a qualitative framework to produce the MPA governance report and published in a special issue of the journal of Marine Policy in 2013.