Chaos Rules in Ministries Responsible for Protecting the Sea

By 29 June 2018

One ministry has defective software, while a second claims there are no reports about the illegal removal of sea urchins.

“The internet application for reporting violations was unavailable for a short period, so the inspection has not received any incident reports. The application error has been resolved and the system is operational again,” announced the Ministry of Agriculture when asked about citizens not receiving a response to a series of reports and photographs about the suspected illegal removal of sea urchins from the sea near Vodice, reports on June 29, 2018.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy claims that its Nature Protection Inspection has not received any reports about the issue.

After recent media reports about the removal of sea urchins in the area of ​​Vodice, numerous photos, and testimonies of concessionaires, the confusing situation regarding the conservation/exploitation of biodiversity in the Croatian Adriatic could be best summarized in this way:

RELEVANT INSPECTORS: The inspection ship has been under repair for the last nine months; we have nothing to do with it. We are not the only ones who can perform inspections; the police have 14 authorized persons for such tasks, and there are also the Customs Administration and the Nature Protection Inspection of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

CITIZENS: We have been reporting the incidents for a month now – but there is no reply. Inspectors do not need a ship or a helicopter, they can just come to the cars parked at the shore and used by those who are removing the sea urchins; they can easily see them there.

LAW: There are three regulations which deal with this issue – and there are three different interpretations. The first says that people can remove up to ten sea urchins a day for personal needs. The second regulation says that a concessionaire can remove eight tons of sea urchins per zone. The third claims that the Republic of Croatia recognises the protection convention, but requests a waiver.

ACTUAL SITUATION: 1 kg of sea urchins = 15 kuna; one diver can remove up to 300 kg of sea urchins per day.

CONCESSIONAIRE: It is not profitable to remove sea urchins legally; people doing it illegally make more money.

EXPERTS: Sea urchins are endangered.

AT THE SAME TIME: Organized groups of people remove sea urchins in the middle of the day, put them in sacks and in plastic containers in cars parked along the shore, and then leave with them.

SEA URCHINS: They are protected elsewhere, but it Croatia they are being collected by whoever wants to.

Here are the two ministries replies to media questions.

Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy
This is the Ministry responsible for the protection and conservation of wild species of flora and fauna by maintaining their favourable status in nature. The Ministry issues annual permits for the collection of native wild species listed in Annex I of the Ordinance on the collection of native wild species, including all species of sea urchins in the Adriatic, except the strictly protected species - Centrostephanus longispinus. The strictly protected species are prohibited to be collected from nature in their natural area of ​​distribution.

The commercial use of all other types of urchins is regulated by the issuance of permits by the Ministry for up to one year. The ordinance lays down general measures for the management and protection of certain species (such as the size, the area of ​​collection, the manner of collection), while the expert opinion specifies management measures (such as allowed annual quantities, a period of collection, etc.).

No quantitative limits for the collection of sea urchins have been prescribed for the time being. The expert opinion is revised every three years, and earlier if needed. Furthermore, it should be noted that the permissions are issued solely for the purpose of commercial use of sea urchins, and not for the collection for personal purposes. According to the provisions of the ordinance, collecting up to ten sea urchin a day is considered to be for personal purposes.

In Croatia, 19 permits have been issued for the collection of sea urchins for the 2017/2018 season, including three to licensees in the Šibenik area.

Regarding the alleged reports, we can notify you that the Nature Protection Inspection has not received any reports. Inspection offices are currently located in Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Šibenik, Split, Ploče and Dubrovnik, with plans to open branches in Novalja, Vis and Korčula.

We emphasize that marine monitoring duties can be performed by authorized persons from the Maritime Police, the Coast Guard, the Customs Administration, the Port Authority, and the Nature Protection Inspection.

The Ministry of Agriculture

Sea urchins can be removed provided there is a license issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy, as well as a valid economic fishing license issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. The same rules apply to sea urchin as for living mollusks, which means that they must be collected in the areas where monitoring is being carried out. Exports to third countries are possible only through an approved dispatch center in the Republic of Croatia.

As for reporting irregularities, users can call the Fisheries Monitoring Center (RMC), which operates every workday from 7:00 to 21:00 and on weekends from 7:00 to 11:00 and from 17:00 to 21:00. The RMC employees will immediately notify the competent fisheries inspectors and authorized persons. The web application for incident reporting was briefly inaccessible so the inspection has not received submitted reports. The error has been corrected and the system is now operational again.

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