On 23 September, Brijuni National Park Public Institution gathered Croatian MPA managers in Šibenik (Croatia) with the aim to discuss conservation challenges and networking possibilities. The event was organised under the framework of the Interreg Med project MPA NETWORKS as the first of many planned encounters.

1st meeting of Croatian MPA managers to discuss the creation of a network
Croatian MPA managers gather to discuss how to overcome their challenges

Croatia has a vast marine area under protection and it covers 16.55% of the territory, comprising 14 protected areas in national categories (e.g. national parks, nature parks, special reserves) and 247 Natura 2000 sites that are at least partially marine. They are managed by 17 public institutions from the local, regional, and national levels, including also the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development.

During the event it was underlined that Croatian MPAs face similar problems:

  • focus on tourism
  • lack of knowledge of the state of the components of the ecosystem (research and monitoring)
  • weakness of the law, overlap of regulations and jurisdictions
  • insufficient support from the institutions (such as the nature protection sector, the inspectorate, the police, the justice system)
  • lack of funding

Despite these conservation challenges, there are some good examples of effective management that don’t necessarily reflect any ecosystem characteristics, size, staff number or availability of funding of the protected area. The real difference between the parks’ conservation performances lies in staff expertise, availability of equipment, motivation, and TEAMWORK! This networking possibility was perceived as a potential for building a knowledge network where every institution can find it’s interest and can only grow successfully if several people are actively involved. The MedPAN and DanubeParks networks were showcased as good examples.

The next steps are the draft of a Memorandum of cooperation that will frame the structure, main goals, and coordination model of the future network.