Sunday, 26 September 2021

Scientists Call for Concrete Action Plan to Protect Adriatic

ZAGREB, 26 Sept, 2021 - A group of Croatian scientists has issued a public letter underlining the importance of adopting an agenda or a specific action plan for the protection of the Adriatic Sea, vital for the sustainable development of the Croatian society, and their appeal was forwarded by the Eko Kvarner NGO on Sunday. 

The scientists, who in September attended a conference on the Adriatic Sea eco-system on the island of Krk, say in their appeal to the prime minister, the parliament speaker and the public that the research of the Adriatic had been conducted for years but that there was a lack of systematic interdisciplinary research to account for "galloping changes."

They say that the changes are irreversible and that the rise of the sea temperature also causes a rise in the sea level and sea salinity, as well as increased sea stratification, and storm tides.

They warn about a growing number of alien species in the Adriatic, of which many are invasive and even poisonous, as well as about the loss of biodiversity.

Tourism-related activities, along with climate change, account for most of the pressure on the Adriatic, the scientists say, stressing that with waste water and intensive farming, more food and various harmful substances end up in the sea, accumulating in sea organisms through food chains.

"On top of that, plastic and other waste is becoming an increasingly big problem, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the quality of life in the sea and human health," they warn, pointing also to the problem of uncontrolled construction in the coastal areas, which results in the loss of the coastal seabed necessary for the propagation of sea organisms.

The scientists consider more active protection of the Adriatic, a better understanding of how its eco-system functions, and the adoption of regulations aimed at its protection as the solution for more sustainable development.

They propose the establishment of an advisory task force comprising scientists to participate in defining the agenda on measures of protection and underline the importance of developing IT technologies to monitor changes in the marine environment and involving citizens in monitoring those changes.

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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Adriatic Heavy Metals: New Research Dives Deep into the Matter

September 1, 2021 - New research led by the scientists from Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) concerns Adriatic heavy metals. The current concentrations are small but worth monitoring. Learn more here.

With scientists from the prestigious Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) already publishing their results from measuring the salinity of the Adriatic, the new endeavors show that salt isn't the only thing worth exploring in Croatia's geographical and tourist ace.

IRB scientists Abra Penezić, Andrea Milinković, Saranda Bakija Alempijević, and Sanja Frka, alongside their colleague Silva Žužul from the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health in Zagreb, authored a scientific article ''Atmospheric deposition of biologically relevant trace metals in the eastern Adriatic coastal area'' and published it in the renowned multidisciplinary journal - Chemosphere.

The research was focused on sedimentation traces of atmospheric metals on the surface of the Adriatic sea. The metals that were traced in this research were zinc, copper, lead, cobalt, nickel, and cadmium. With all of them being heavy metals (not in a fun, artistic way like Metallica or Iron Maiden) that pose a serious threat to human health, keeping a close eye on their levels in the Adriatic is a more than important task.

''Atmospheric transmission isn't just significant, it's often the dominant way in which natural and anthropogenic (man-made) transfers occur from land to the marine area. Once injected through processes of dry or wet sedimentation, atmospheric flying particles or aerosols become the outside source of nutritious but also toxic matter for marine ecosystems. Atmospheric sedimentation can be of significant value for waters that are poor in terms of nutritious salts, such as the area of central Adriatic,'' informed IRB in its press release.

They added that the coastal area of the Adriatic sea is under the constant influence of man-made aerosols of the urban and industrial areas of continental Europe. In addition, spring and summer see the influx of Sahara dust, and with the coastal area being a high-risk area of open fires, aerosol contribution increases. However, IRB states that the effect of fire aerosols on surface maritime systems still isn't being properly researched to this day.

''In this research, we looked at the variability of the concentration of biologically significant metals in traces and their sedimentation on the surface waters of the central Adriatic. At the Martinka sea station, we did a six-month-long sampling of PM10 particles, total sedimentation matter, seawater from a depth of one metre and the surface microlayer as the border between the sea and the atmosphere,'' explained the leading author, Dr. Abra Penezić.

PM10 is a problematic particle as it remains for a very long time in the atmosphere due to its small size and ability to remain there, warns the Belgian Interregional Environment Agency.

Abra_Penezic.jpg

Dr. Abra Penezić © Ruđer Bošković Institute

The research showed that in colder periods of the year, the increase of metal traces of zinc, cadmium, and lead in the Adriatic is owed to the heating systems and transportation from continental Europe.

In the summer, increased traffic emissions allow nickel, cobalt, and copper to be on the rise. The rain increases wet sedimentation and, along with open forest fires and Sahara dust, they become factors of increasing metal particles. The IRB press release states that while the concentration of this article is small, it is important to constantly monitor these levels.

''The results of this research will contribute to the further knowledge on processes on this specific area and the dynamics of the atmosphere and the sea,'' they explained from IRB.

This research is also part of the BiREADI research project. It began back in 2018 and will last until 2022 with a million kuna budget, the project aims to explore the complex dynamic and mutual influence of the atmosphere and the sea, an important and profound question to answer in respect both to the climate challenges we experience now and those that are yet to come.

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Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Adriatic Seawater-Powered Energy System: Significant Potential for Croatia

August 18, 2021 - The Adriatic seawater-powered energy system would produce energy using waves and tides. The sustainable energy system is already recognized as one of the current EU green transition solutions.

By the end of August this year, the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds will announce the first call for incentives for sea energy production projects to receive European Union funds, reports Jutarnji List.

Sea energy production using waves, tides, and special heat pumps with seawater is in its infancy in the European Union. However, along with wind farms, solar, and hydrogen, it is recognized as one of the solutions in the current EU green transition.

"The Republic of Croatia has significant potential for developing renewable energy sources, especially for the application of seawater technologies. One of the solutions that could be especially applicable to Croatia, due to its long coastline, is seawater heat pump systems or SDTMV systems," reads the public invitation of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds, which decided at this stage to encourage the production of energy from the sea to support seawater heat pumps. Namely, although there are several mentioned technologies in the range of sea energy production, the state estimated that the most interest could be for cranes, i.e., as stated in the invitation, for installing heating and cooling systems using heat pumps from offshore energy.

"Since the level of development of marine technologies in Croatia is not high, only SDTMV will be considered, crane systems that provide a generally stable and continuous source of heating and cooling of seawater that acts as a stable and reliable heat source. Therefore, although there may be high investment costs, the pilot project needs to be explored," reads the position of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds. In any case, according to the call's content, it is expected that municipalities and coastal cities, among others, could apply with the associated projects.

According to available data, the technology of sea energy production is already used in several locations along the coast. Currently, its application, among others, is being done by the Istrian Regional Energy Agency (IRENA) in cooperation with the City of Poreč. This is a project to install a seawater heat pump system for the Poreč city administration building. Furthermore, according to IRENA, several other public buildings near the building can be connected to the common circuit of seawater distribution as the main source of heat and thus build an environmentally neutral and financially efficient heating and cooling system in Poreč.

In addition to the coastal city and municipal administrations, marine energy production technology, judging by the experiences from Italy presented at the IRENA meetings, could use ports and marinas to deliver surplus energy to the grid. For example, in the Ancona port, according to the same source, there are plans to install 50 devices that would occupy 200 m of the coastline. The investment worth 670 thousand euros would have a payback period of nine years with an annual production of 670 thousand kilowatt-hours of electricity.

In any case, one and a half million euros are available to interested domestic scientists and investors in the mentioned call, with a minimum (200 thousand euros) and maximum withdrawal limits of 1.3 million euros per project. The share that the state is willing to co-finance in the total project budget varies from 50 percent for small to 30 percent for large entrepreneurs.

"Successfully implemented pilot projects for sea energy production would also increase the capacities and skills of suppliers and developers and consequently contribute to lower costs of SDTMV installations in the future," points out the Ministry.

The project preparation, promotion, and management are co-financed. It is planned that the corresponding contracts on the projects that received co-financing will be signed in May next year at the latest, with the obligation to use the withdrawn money by April 2024.

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Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Salty Adriatic Sea: New Research Raises Concerns

Aug 5, 2021 -The salty Adriatic Sea became saltier in 2017, and even in 2021, the salinity levels are the highest ever recorded, warns the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB).

With known salty areas such as Pag, you would expect the Adriatic sea to be very salty, and it is. However, over the years, it has become even saltier, as the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) stated.

As the IRB wrote in a press release, a Croatian scientific team collaborating with their Italian colleagues published a study that shows so far unrecorded levels of salinity in the Adriatic. Their work was published in the prestigious Frontiers in Marine Science Magazine titled ''Observation, Preconditioning, and Recurrence of Exceptionally High Salinities in the Adriatic Sea“.

As the IRB explained, it was in 2017 around Palagruža where the Adriatic sea's salinity reached a record of 39.1 per mille.

''In addition, with minor oscillations, the high salinity in the first 200 metres of depth was kept within the central part of the southern Adriatic, and it has remained the case until today. For example, at this moment, the salinity levels in the central part of the southern Adriatic is over 38.8 per mille in the whole water gauge, and 39.15 per mille by the surface,'' added the IRB.

This measurement was the lead for the scientists to conduct further research that incorporated various available data acquired via multiparameter probes, autonomous ARGO buoys, remote-controlled submarines, and satellites that measure sea level's surface. The data from an oceanographic model of the Mediterranean sea (which combines satellite and other measures, thus giving the most quality 3D view of the oceanographic field) was also used.

Sure enough, the salinity rise has been explained. On one hand, the enhanced flow from the Middle East and the Ionian sea are to blame, but on the other, there are changes in the Adriatic sea itself.

''The processes (in the Adriatic sea) occur on a scale of several days to a decade, and have four key elements,'' they explained from IRB.

The first one concerns Adriatic-Ionian bi-modal oscillation affecting physical and biogeochemical conditions in the Adriatic through a period of 5-10 years, which, in the last decade, has caused a serious influx of salt and oligotrophic waters (waters which are too low in nutrients to support life).

The second process concerns low river flows due to the low amount of rainfall, while the third process concerns the enhanced amount of solar energy on the sea's surface during summer and early autumn. Finally, with the weather warmer than average and with very little wind, the water gauge is divided into the hotter surface level and colder central and bottom levels. This leads to the fourth process that includes vaporising and the loss of water from the sea surface.

''Three out of four of the aforementioned processes have already been documented in the Mediterranean as a consequence of climate change that in the future will bring warmer, drier summers and as a consequence, more heat and the higher salinity of the sea surface,'' they warned from IRB. They added that this is a threat to marine life which depends on the temperature, the level of salinity, and other factors that will be sabotaged with these changes.

With the Adriatic sea and its marine life being one of the treasures Croatia has, the global response to climate change must start giving results as fast as possible, and Croatia cannot afford to miss out on contributing for the sake of the country and the world in general.

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Sunday, 1 August 2021

Stay Safe on Your Holiday: Croatian Wildlife and Marine Animals to Avoid

Aug 01, 2021 - Do not risk ruining your perfect holiday and learn about the potentially dangerous Croatian wildlife and marine animals you may encounter, albeit a small chance, during your trip to Croatia. Always remember: if it’s predictable, it’s preventable! Here’s a guide to potentially dangerous animals in Croatia, where they can be found, what to look out for, and what to do if you get attacked or bitten.

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Photo credit: Mario Romulić

There are currently 15 snake species that are known to inhabit Croatia, and only 3 of them are venomous. Two of these venomous snakes - karst meadow viper and common European adder - are generally considered harmless since their venom have low potency and do not pose a serious threat to normal and healthy humans. However, the horned viper has been linked to 4 fatal deaths in Croatia. Although these vipers exist throughout the country, they are mostly found in the coastal cities and stony mountains of Dalmatia. They can be identified by the distinctive zigzag pattern on their backs. The horned viper, locally known as poskok, has a horn on its snout where its name was derived from. Its body is usually gray, sometimes pinkish-grey, with a dark grey/black zigzag pattern from head to tail. Horned vipers are usually quiet but will attack when provoked. These snakes have also been reported to have the ability to jump at a distance of 5 feet and as high as 3 feet. On the other hand, the common European adders are mostly found on meadows and freshwater and river lowlands of the Sava, Drava, Mura and Danube. They are also found in mountainous areas such as Gorski Kotor. Meanwhile, the karst meadow vipers prefer higher altitudes so they are mostly found in the mountains of Dinara and Velebit.

What to do when you encounter a snake? Slowly back away from the creature - do not attempt to catch the snake or chase it away. It is also best to avoid tall grassy areas and if passing through one is unavoidable, wear sensible and protective footgear. Never stick your arms or legs into unknown, dark and hollow spaces or any rock, leaf and wood piles - these are snake's favourite hiding places! Lastly, always pay attention to your surroundings when climbing and hiking. For suspected snake bites, try to keep as still and calm as possible - a higher heart rate could cause the venom to spread faster. Tie a tourniquet from the bite towards the heart to delay the circulation of venom and seek medical assistance immediately!

BearsBrown_bear_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Marshmallow - https://www.flickr.com/photos/tmarschner/2728816091/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7080486

Croatia is full of forests and mountains, therefore, it makes an ideal home for the Croatian brown bear. It is highly unlikely to encounter them in established tourist attractions in Croatia but the risk goes higher around the mountainous regions of Gorski Kotar, Velebit, Lika, and even in the Biokovo and Mosor mountains of Dalmatia. Bears usually mind their own business and avoid humans, however, a mother bear with her cubs tends to attack any potential threats, even unprovoked. Nevertheless, only 3 bear attacks on humans in Croatia have been reported and all of them were non-fatal. 

To avoid accidentally encountering a bear, Ivor Kocelj, an official tour guide in Croatia suggests that during a hike, talking, listening to music, or even clapping allow bears to notice the human presence and flee in advance. If a bear is spotted from a distance and looked unprovoked, you may continue to observe it, in silence. If the bear is within close proximity, try to calm down, retreat in silence, avoid eye contact and wait for the bear to leave. Bears are attracted to food so minimize bringing food with a strong odour and store them properly. Also, never come close to a bear cub because mother bears are extremely protective. Lastly, ALWAYS follow the marked hiking trails - let the wild animals live undisturbed in their habitat!

Black Widow SpiderBlackWidow_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Camazine - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4809805

It is the most poisonous spider in Europe and is characterized by the distinctive red spots against its black back. In Croatia, they are found in the coastal areas of Istria, Dalmatia and Primorje. The spider's bite is reportedly almost painless with symptoms appearing a few hours later which can include spasms, immense pain and sometimes, paralysis. Even though the venom is poisonous, most healthy adults would not suffer any fatal effects but the children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are highly susceptible. Black widow spiders often live in bushes, under rocks and grassy areas so the reported cases of spider bites are usually from people who accidentally stepped on them while walking barefoot. Hence, it is always advisable to wear proper footwear when outdoors. For any suspected black widow spider bites, seek prompt medical assistance.

Scorpions1084px-Euscorpius_fg13_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Fritz Geller-Grimm - Vlastito djelo, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9854317

Few scorpion species are found in Croatia but the two most common species are the Euroscorpius Italicus and E. Germanus both of which are relatively harmless. Scorpions do not pose a serious threat to humans, however, a scorpion's venom may cause swelling, redness and itching around the area. The person may also experience severe pain, allergic reactions, tingling and numbness. These arachnids are mostly found in coastal, rather than continental, regions of Croatia. If stung by a scorpion, it is best to apply a cool compress on the affected area and a pain relief medication if needed. To be safe, have the bite checked by a medical professional, especially if it is on a child. Take note: scorpions are protected species in Croatia so do not kill them if you spot one!

TicksDog_tick_5148_1.jpgPhoto credit: By André Karwath aka Aka - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=131004

Ticks love wooded and grassy areas, as well as humid and warm environment - therefore, ticks can be found almost anywhere during spring and summer in Croatia. Most ticks in southern region of Croatia do not carry tick-borne illnesses. The ones who may transmit or cause infections such as Lyme disease, encephalitis and tick paralysis are active in May and June and are mostly found in forested regions of continental Croatia. To avoid getting bitten by these blood-sucking insects, it is best to wear full-length clothing and insect repellent especially during outdoor trips. If bitten and a tick is attached to your skin, grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible and pull it upward steadily using fine-tipped tweezers to safely remove the tick. Make sure not to leave any parts of the tick in your skin and clean the bite area, as well as your hands, with soap and water and rubbing alcohol. Remember to never crush a tick with your bare hands as it may transmit diseases. It is best to dispose a live tick in alcohol solution, place it in sealed container or flushing it down the toilet.

Sharks1080px-A_shortfin_mako_shark_swimming_in_an_aquarium.1_1.jpgPhoto credit: By 出羽雀台 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107209573

With rich marine biodiversity, numerous species of sharks are found in the Adriatic waters with only two species - Mako and Great White sharks - are deemed dangerous to humans. According to Shark Attack Data, since the 1900s, there have been 11 reported fatal shark attacks in Croatia - the latest of which took place in 1974 in Omiš. The last recorded non-fatal shark attack was in 2008 near Vis Island. Nonetheless, the attacks in the Adriatic sea are extremely rare so it is still very safe for swimmers, surfers and divers.

The best way to avoid a shark attack is to take extra precautions when going to the sea. For starters, avoid swimming too far away from the coastline and do not wear bright jewellery because sharks might confuse it for a glistening fish, a.k.a, shark food. If a shark happens to be nearby, try not to panic and swim away vertically without making too much movements and noise. If a shark ends up attacking you and you are not alone, it is best to stay in a defensive position (back-to-back) to avoid surprise lunges from sharks. It is impossible to outswim a shark so your best bet is to make the shark see you as a strong and credible threat by throwing a jab at the shark's most vulnerable areas - gills, eyes and snout. Targeting these areas can cause the shark to retreat. Sharks rarely attack but when they do, it can be severely dangerous, even fatal; so the surest way to prevent shark-related incidence is to steer clear from shark-infested areas.

Sea UrchinsSea_urchin_upside_down_1.jpegPhoto credit: By Lacen - Croatia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=248760

The presence of sea urchins is a sign of clean and unpolluted water, hence, it's no wonder that these spiky creatures are ubiquitous on the Adriatic Coast. Every tourist season, the public beaches in Croatia are often cleaned of sea urchins so most of them are found in secluded and natural beaches near the shores and around the rocks. Sea urchins are not poisonous but stepping on their spikes cause painful foot injury which can make the rest of your trip irritating and uncomfortable. Their spikes break easily and worse, they get stuck under the skin. The best way to prevent a sea urchin injury is to wear a pair of protective water shoes (warning: may trigger strong disapproval look from locals). If you accidentally stepped on a sea urchin, use tweezers to remove any spikes, although some will be too deep to be taken out. Afterwards, clean the affected area with soap and water but remember to leave it open and unbandaged. Use pain relievers if needed.

Jellyfish & Sea Anemone960px-20131206_Istanbul_018_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Mark Ahsmann - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30241025

Jellyfish are gelatinous sea creatures mostly made up of water, thus, they do not have good movement control. These creatures mostly float and are carried by sea currents so their presence is detected from time to time in the Adriatic sea. Unfortunately, when jellyfish end up in Adriatic coast, they come in huge numbers so jellyfish related injuries go up as well. However, most of the stinging incidents occur when a human accidentally brushes across a jellyfish while swimming. The jellyfish that are found in the Adriatic sea come from cnidarian family of which contain a number of species that are poisonous. The long tentacles of jellyfish are able to pierce through human tissue where their poison is transferred. Sea anemones are also found in the Adriatic shores, especially, the cylinder anemone. This type of anemone is often found in shallow waters and unlike jellyfish, sea anemones are sedentary and are attached to seabeds and rocks where humans can easily step on them.

A jellyfish and anemone sting may cause searing pain or severe burning sensation in the affected area and redness and rashes may also appear. Sometimes, the area swells and gets blistered, too. Some people have been reported to develop severe symptoms including eczema, violent itching, and darkened skin pigmentation. In very rare cases, jellyfish venom can lead to anaphylactic shock causing serious health risks. Depending on the severity of the situation, the first aid for a jellyfish sting is to wash it with salt water (freshwater can intensify the pain), and wash the injured area with vinegar or alcohol because these can block the poison from releasing further. There are also medications that reduce swelling and itching but the best treatment option is to get the injured area checked by a medical professional. 

Important note: Dead jellyfish can still sting so never touch one with bare hands!

Weever Fish Trachinus_draco_Karpathos_1.jpegPhoto credit: By Roberto Pillon - http://www.fishbase.de/photos/thumbnailssummary.php?ID=1363#, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25931842

The greater weever, locally known as pauk, is the most commonly found weever fish in the Adriatic sea. Other species from this family include starry weever, lesser weever and spotted weever, all of which are very rarely found since they prefer deeper areas and only approach the shores during mating season in winter. The greater weever poses the biggest hazard to humans because they often swim in shallow waters. The weevers have spikes on their gills and dorsal fins where their poison is located. Most incidents including greater weevers happen due to fishermen's carelessness and lack of knowledge or when a swimmer steps on the fish accidentally in the shallow waters. The venom of weever fish brings unbearable pain within 15 to 30 minutes of contact and swelling. The most common reactions to weever venom include loss of consciousness, nausea, loss of sensation in the affected area, elevated heart rate and breathing difficulties. The first aid for weever fish poisoning starts with removing the remaining spikes and disinfecting the area with clean water and soap. Afterwards, soak the area at the highest temperature one can endure for at least half an hour while being careful not to cause burns on the skin. Poison from weever fish is believed to be volatile in heat so this step is highly advisable to delay the spread of the poison until medical help arrives.

In general, the diverse and beautiful Croatian wildlife is very safe as long as you keep proper distance and safety measures from the wild animals. It is highly unlikely for you to come across these wildlife dangers, except maybe for sea urchins, but it is always best to stay alert and observe necessary precautions when travelling in unfamiliar places. Get acquainted with the list of numbers and responders in Croatia you may need to contact in case of emergency. Have a safe travel and remember, watch where you step!

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Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Croatia Increases Sea-Fish Catch and Production

ZAGREB, 14 July, 2021 - Croatia increased the catch and production of sea fish and other marine organisms by 9% in 2020 compared with the previous year, while the value of fisheries rose by 10.4%, according to provisional data from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics.

The increase in the value of fisheries was due to the 11.6% rise in the value of sea fisheries, which in turn was driven by the 10.3% increase in sales.

A total of 66,535 tonnes of pelagic fish were sold last year, which is 7,054 tonnes more than in 2019, while the value of pelagic fish sold rose by 13.7% to HRK 518.2 million.

Also sold were 18,321 tonnes of other fish, their value reaching HRK 774.8 million, up by 13.5% compared with 2019.

The number of fishermen engaged in maritime fishing in 2020 fell by 0.4% to 6,582, and the number of fishing vessels decreased by 0.8% to 7,555.

The provisional data also show that the total production of freshwater fish in 2020 declined by 14.7% to 2,644 tonnes.

(€1 = HRK 7.48)

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Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Journalist Clickbait Victim: The Curious Case of Mystery Fish on Korčula

June 2, 2021 -  When TC editor Iva Tatić caught the fish nobody could identify, TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac jumped to action in the hope he will find a marine life scoop. But after the dramatic realization that Atlantic lizardfish is nothing spectacular, he became a journalist clickbait victim. Meet the mystery fish on Korčula. 

It was early evening between 7 pm-8 pm on the eastern Korčula coastline on May 28. After a long week of handling the Total Croatia site, TC editor Iva Tatić decided to chill and went fishing. Instead of managing the multilingual site that brings you the best tips on how to travel and enjoy Croatia, she must've been happy with the idea she can enjoy in Croatia herself, as she was preparing two hooks – one with a squid and the other with the piece of bread. Marine life must be very humble cause instead of a squid (absolutely delicious, either fried or grilled and stuffed with swiss chard), the bread was the taken bait for the careless fish soul underneath the Adriatic surface.

Iva took the opportunity and caught its prey, but pretty soon, happiness for the catch was additionally spiced with curiosity.

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the source of curiosity and happiness © Iva Tatić

„What the hell is this?“ Iva asked the local Korčula fishermen showing them her catch.

And „no idea“ was the consensus by other marine life hunters.

„Locals call it the spider“, said a local fisherman known as Pero to Iva. „It looks like Spiderman“.

Iva didn't feel that Spiderman is an accurate comparison, and as no one really knew the answer, the whole thing went online.

After Iva shared the photos of its catch on Facebook, the online jury narrowed the mystery to two possible suspects: Saurida and Atlantic lizardfish.

Still being new and wanting to gain recognition in the newsroom, I took on myself to investigate what exactly is this Aquaman-Spiderman-love-child. Perhaps it's something invasive, a threat to the lovely Adriatic, and a fantastic journalist story.

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The case, the challenge, the scoop © Iva Tatić

Word on the expert street

A little bit of browsing through the pages of Rovinj Sea Research Centre (CIM), and a few calls, led me to the CIM Senior scientific associate, dr. Andrej Jaklin.

„It looks like Atlantic lizardfish, I saw that fish in person on Pelješac 15 years ago“, said Dr. Jaklin on the phone while looking at the images of the catch I sent him.

Jaklin's memory also seems fit with Pelješac being close to Korčula Island. Still, he said he can't really tell me too much about the fish and recommended it to me to contact dr. Marcelo Kovačić from the Natural History Museum Rijeka. However, dr. Kovačić, a curator for vertebrates, was on vacation, so the call was picked up by Milvana Arko-Pijevac, curator for marine invertebrates.

„I think this could be an Atlantic lizardfish, the head looks like it should, but I'm specialized for invertebrates, mollusks and shellfish“, said Silvana Arko-Pijevac.

So until that point, two experts for marine bio life are certain this is an Atlantic lizardfish (Synodus saurus). Fish, from Atlantic, I thought. Are we talking about an invasive species that manage to come to the northern dead-end of the Mediterranean all the way from the Atlantic? If so, is it hazardous to the domestic sea life of the Adriatic?

Despite recognizing the fish, neither Jaklin nor Arko-Pijevac couldn't say more details, but it's worth noting that the scientific community can once again serve as a role model to everyone who thinks they are experts on everything (both in Croatia but a trend we see spawn worldwide). Instead, my interlocutors accepted and pointed out the limits of their knowledge and suggested me someone who knows more.

Clickbait: It's not just for journalists anymore!

It took me a while to reach Dr. Jakov Dulčić from the Laboratory of Ichthyology and Coastal Fishery at the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Split. First, he was not in the office, and later, he was at a meeting. But, with Arko-Pijevac's claim that Dulčić is the best ichthyologist in all of Croatia, it was worth the wait.

Finally, my mobile phone impulses from Zagreb caught dr. Dulčić in Split, and I excitedly asked him for help. To identify and say a bit more about the mysterious fish fishermen in Korčula failed to recognize, but is suspected to be the Atlantic lizardfish.

„I have to see the photos to say for certain“, said Dulčić.

„I already sent them to your e-mail before this call. Can you please refresh your E-mail?“, I asked with hearable excitement in my voice and suspense in my gut.

The suspense only grew as Dulčić was opening the e-mail.

„Found it!“, he said and I almost screamed out of excitement,

„Yes, indeed, that is the Atlantic lizardfish“, confirmed Dulčić with a relaxed voice while I was ready to ask tons of questions about this weird and possibly invasive species.

„But that is neither exciting nor anything special to catch in the Adriatic“, continued Dulčić with the same chilled tone.

I listened to that sentence with a blank expression fortunately, nobody has seen it except the walls in my apartment.

„You might think it's unusual in Croatian waters because of its name, but it's the normal fish that lives in Adriatic“, added Dulčić.

I couldn't help but think what a sour poetic justice. Being a journalist, a member of the profession in which some of my colleagues try to catch views by clickbait, to be hooked (pun intended) on a clickbait in scientific terminology.

„They can be found across the Adriatic sea, everywhere in Croatia. Their population used to be smaller in the previous years, but it recently got larger. It seems they have certain cycles, but it's nothing spectacular“, he concluded.

„But how come none of the fishermen recognized it?“, I asked puzzled.

„Interestingly enough, it is often caught, but it can rarely be seen on the fish market, and that's a place thanks to which you can usually recognize fish“, explained Dulčić.

However, informing and educating fishers and the general public about marine life in the Adriatic is something dr Dulčić and the Oceanographic Institute are very dedicated to.

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Presenting you the Atlantic lizardfish © Iva Tatić

This is evident by the LEKFishResCRO project.

„This project will address the need to improve knowledge on the trends in Adriatic fisheries with novel methods as well as to acknowledge recent changes in fish biodiversity in a complex Adriatic ecosystem. The central objective of the project will be to evaluate the potential use of the LEK in developing the knowledge base for fisheries management and conservation. The strategy employed for this evaluation will be a two-way discussion between fisherman and other stakeholders from one side and fisheries biologists from another side around the subject of what sorts of indicators of ecosystem health would make sense in light of both the LEK of the fishers and the research-based knowledge (RBK) of the fisheries biologists“, says LEKFishResCRO website, and with loads of materials, you can check yourself.

„We collaborate well with fishermen, we work on their education, and with their tips and images they sent from the field we quickly gather research data“, explained Dulčić.

The invasive species are legitimately a threat to Adriatic, and it comes from the Red Sea through Eastern Mediterranean, but these examples are excellent topics for some other articles.

In the meantime, the mystery fish is identified as a mainstream species in the Adriatic. Somewhat newsworthy (maybe?), but this time my ship returned without a scoop from the stormy cruise in the sea of information.

I sent a message to Iva explaining what she caught (which she already found out on her own, she is a good journalist after all), and I only confirmed that she can unfreeze it and eat it safely. Additionally, I found this recipe at least.

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Korčula and Adriatic Sea, Pixabay

Enjoy the Adriatic, but respect marine life

In an attempt to conclude this investigative piece (let's pretend it is one, please) on a socially responsible and eco-friendly note, I asked dr Dulčić if there are any type of fish tourists and locals shouldn't fish because it's on the verge of extinction and if caught it should be returned to the sea immediately. „Such fish is living in areas and conditions where you can't catch it with hooks or nets. But Do not dive out noble pen shells (Pinna nobilis), or disturb mammals such as dolphins. And be careful around sharks and jellyfish“, concluded dr. Dulčić.

Learn more about Korčula on our TC page.

For more about science in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Noble Pen Shell in Croatia: Living Specimen Found Close to Lastovo Island

May 29, 2021 – Close to Lastovo Island in the Dubrovnik archipelago, a local fisherman discovered a living specimen of the noble pen shell in Croatia. 

The title of this text would not be very interesting just a few years ago. Noble pen shells are some of the most beloved bivalves of the Croatian part of the Adriatic. They are popular with scuba divers and snorkelers because of their impressive size and beauty. Unfortunately, last year saw a massive dying-off of noble pen shells in Croatia.

It started five years ago in Spain. The mysterious disease killed off almost the entire population of noble pen shells in the Mediterranean. Tportal reports, Croatian Veterinary Institute (HVI) is researching the causes of the ecological disaster. A parasite called Haplosporidium pinnae in combination with micro bacteria is the most likely culprit. According to Zeljko Mihaljevic, pathologist and epidemiologist of HVI, this discovery is very reassuring. The Southern Adriatic seems to have lost virtually its entire population of noble pen shells. Any surviving specimens are very interesting to observe. They might have immunity that is potentially very important for the continuation of the research.

Observe and Report

He also went on to ask anyone who spots any noble pen shells in the Adriatic to check if they are alive. Simply passing your hand over the shell should make it close. It is sensitive to the commotion in the water. Any living specimen should be reported to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. Their central contact number is +385 1 3717 111.

Noble pen shell, also known as fan mussel, can be over a meter in length. They usually grow upright on sandy bottoms. It is endemic to the Mediterranean region and the biggest bivalve in the Adriatic. They are a good indicator of sea cleanliness. The Croatian government is enacting a program that aims to slowly re-establish the population of noble pen shells. It will not be an easy nor a quick process. Diving lovers in Croatia are hoping to once again enjoy the view of these darlings of the Adriatic.

For more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Rovinj Sea Research Centre Celebrating 130 Years of Work

May 18, 2021 - The Rovinj Sea Research Centre turns 130 in 2021. It is the place in Croatia for oceanographic research and all things science related to the preservation of the sea and maritime life.

Established back in 1891 as Berlin's Aquarium Zoological Station, the research Institute is known today as the Rovinj Sea Research Centre (CIM), and last week it celebrated 130 years of work. An affiliate of the Ruđer Bošković Science Institute (IRB), that institute recently reported that CIM currently has 54 employees working in four laboratories, and the centre is heavily involved in numerous impressive scientific projects.

''This includes five projects of the Croatian Science Foundation (HrZZ), worth 5,855 635 HRK, three projects financed within the INTERREG cross border programme (worth 1,326 000 euros), three projects with European structural and investment funds (7,189 531 HRK), and two projects financed within the EU programme for research and innovations, OBZOR 2020, valued at 179,360 euros,“ says the IRB official website.

The section of the IRB page dedicated to CIM adds that the centre offers a multidisciplinary take on the research of the sea, offering both basic and applicable oceanographic research. This includes six areas of interest: processes and dynamics in the food chain, examining the dynamics of water masses, ecology (species and the interrelations of species in both clean and in polluted waters), sea organism research (ecological, physiological, and genetic features of organisms, and a pollution effects study), the monitoring of pollution and sea quality, and finally, the monitoring of eutrophication (a process in which the environment becomes enriched with nutrients which can trigger the development of algae and cause an imbalance in the ecosystem).

Set in the beautiful town of Rovinj on the Istrian peninsula because of the clear waters of the Adriatic sea, CIM is on a mission to preserve marine life and its biodiversity.

CIM truly has a rich tradition, having conducted international systematic research and monitoring of the marine ecosystem of the Northern Adriatic for over 30 years. ''This approach became a model for the regional organisation of the European systematic monitoring of the coastal sea,'' says IRB.

IRB adds that in this long tradition, the Croatian science programme of monitoring the Northern Adriatic played a huge role. Having begun fifty years ago, it developed into the Jadran Project, making Croatia one of the first countries in all of Europe to have developed a systematic approach to the monitoring of the sea.

''Additional confirmation of the tradition and scientific quality of CIM can also be seen in the recent joining of CIM to JERICO – the Joint European Research Infrastructure network for Coastal Observatory, making CIM a partner of some of the most famous European Institutes“, concluded the IRB's explanation.

Learn more about Beaches in Croatia on our TC page.

For more about science in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 30 April 2021

From Warsaw to Bisevo: Meet Beata and Her Amazing Life on the Adriatic

April 30, 2021 – TCN recently talked with Beata Przybyszewska Kujawa from Poland who moved from Warsaw to Bisevo island and started a new, significantly different life. As she says, the Adriatic impresses her and she is enjoying her new island life. She sees the greatest potential in eco tourism in Croatia, and her dream is to open a Biševo Museum. Here's her full story.

You believe that the Adriatic Sea and its coast had healing properties for you because you managed to solve some health problems you had by coming to the Adriatic. Other people have confirmed the same. What thrilled you the most in Dalmatia?

I first came to Dalmatia, more precisely to the island of Hvar, during a tour organised by the ORBIS travel agency back in 1980 – back in the times of the former Yugoslavia. I remember walking along the shore from the Sirena hotel towards Hvar Town. I saw the sunset illuminating the white stone houses, surrounded by palm trees and the calm, sparkling surface of the sea. I felt a rush of emotions coming over me, and, for the first time in my life, I started crying with delight.

From that moment on, I started travelling around Croatia very often, and it was Dalmatia, and especially the islands, that delighted me the most. I want to add that I have visited many countries across the world: the USA, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Tunisia, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, France, Austria, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece, but Dalmatia is my place on Earth, and here I feel the best. I consider the Adriatic Sea to be the most beautiful in the world, not only for its aesthetic beauty but also thanks to the health benefits it provides.

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Mezuporat on Biševo

I have felt on my own skin many times that swimming in the Adriatic Sea is an irreplaceable therapy that strengthens my health and immunity. Thalassotherapy – sea therapy, hundreds of bioelements and minerals dissolved in the sea, the sun - a source of natural vitamin D3, clean air, the Mediterranean vegetation – all of these are indispensable factors necessary for our health.

Surprisingly, I 've noticed that the locals often don't take advantage of these benefits of nature and what they have at their daily disposal! They rarely swim in the sea. They consider it an activity meant for tourists who rent apartments and are essential for their household budgets.

Up to this day, I'm still delighted with the Dalmatian climate, the combination of flora and fauna, the sea, and the mountains. I'm captivated by the colurs and the clarity of the Adriatic Sea, all the indescribable scents, an aromatherapeutic cocktail of rosemary, lavender, Mediterranean pine, salt, and algae. All this is intertwined, giving a person what they need, but if only they want to take advantage of its benefits.

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Gatula on Biševo

You're interested in spas and wellness, as well as in nature and plants. What do you consider to be the greatest natural treasure in the Adriatic Sea? What do you think, what do we have, and what else is needed for so-called wellness tourism?

In Poland, I'd been actively promoting a healthy lifestyle for over 25 years. I hold a Master's degree in public health and diplomas in the fields of cosmetology and health promotion. I had my own publishing house, which had been publishing the "Gabi. Net - Estetyka & Zdrowie" magazine for over ten years. I've organised over 180 congresses, training sessions and workshops on a healthy lifestyle, spas, and wellness. I was a consultant in this field for many hotels and wellness centres.

Here in Dalmatia, there's a massive potential in the area: there are hundreds of plants, herbs, natural substances, and ingredients that can be used in pro-health and anti-stress therapies in the SPA and Wellness industry: for massages, peelings, inhalation, baths. For seniors who have problems with their sleep, walking, or bad joints, business people who are often too stressed out, people who are obese and those recovering from various illnesses.

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Mezuporat Bay on Biševo

Now, during the coronavirus pandemic that is doing damage to our respiratory system, we must pay attention to the body's oxygenation, proper, deep breathing, as well as room ventilation. Gymnastics, outdoor yoga, swimming, and the intentional use of the sun are very important in supporting our immune system.

Therefore, I see the greatest potential in so-called eco tourism – being among nature, with an active form of rest, immersed within nature and all of the gifts it provides.

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Porat Bay on Biševo

You're also interested in culture and you think that there is excellent cultural potential in Dalmatia. What do you think, how would it be possible to develop it?

During my last six years in Warsaw, I worked as a culture inspector in the Mokotów district. I organised concerts, exhibitions, and other cultural events. I was also the president of the Polish-Croatian JADRAN Association. Among other things, we were focused on cultural contact between our countries. As such, we organised Croatian Culture Festivals in Warsaw, where we hosted musicians such as Parni Valjak, Goran Karan, Ana Rucner, and 'klapa' groups from the islands of Šolta and Brač. These events were exciting, promoting both Croatia's culture, art, and cuisine.

Dalmatia has excellent cultural potential. Its unique, ubiquitous music and ancient architectural heritage are the elements that, in my opinion, create its strongest points. International music meetings and making music together would be an exciting idea.

For example, during one of the Croatian Festivals, two female music groups joined together: the Polish band Służewianki and the Croatian 'klapa' group Čuvite from the island of Šolta. These ladies sang the song "Mariana," together, which is well known both in Poland and in Croatia. It's similar in the realm of poetry. I think organising international poetry meetings would make for a great experience.

For example, on the island of Šolta, in Nečujam, where Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński, one of the greatest Polish poets, stayed twice during the summers of 1937 and 1938, it turned out he stayed in the very same house in which the great father of Croatian literature, Marko Marulić, wrote the poem "Judita." This beautiful stone house is still standing there, begging for renovation. On its facade hangs a plaque dedicated to Marulić, and in front of the house, there is a plaque made of white marble in honour of Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński.

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The Marko Marulić residence in Nečujam on Šolta, pictured on April 26, 2021 by Damir Jerčić, taken from the Naš Nečujam Facebook group

In the nearby church of St. Teresa, in Rogač, there is also an impressive plaque in honour of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, who in the 1930s was a model and great authority in many countries. Piłsudski also visited the Dalmatian coast, and also went to Opatija.

It would be great to establish memorial rooms for both of those great poets in this extraordinary house in Nečujam on Šolta and to organise regular poetry meetings. Another reason for that is that the great Croatian poet, Vesna Parun, also used to stay and now rests on the island of Šolta.

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Nečujam on Šolta / Šolta Tourist Board

As you said, your greatest wish is to open a museum of "everything that was thrown out by the Adriatic Sea" in Biševo. What would be the theme of the museum? When can we expect this project to be realised? Are you already taking any steps?

My first artistic venture on the island of Biševo, where I've been staying since January this year, was painting stone Easter eggs, called 'pisanki' in Poland. I decorated a dozen of them and gave them to the island's inhabitants, along with my warmest Easter greetings. That was a way for me to meet and introduce myself to them.

Around a dozen people are living here permanently. In summer, more people come from the neighbouring island of Vis, not to mention the thousands of tourists who visit Biševo mainly to see the exceptional Blue Cave.

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Blue Cave on Biševo / Romulić and Stojčić

As part of the 'Kamen i Krš' project, a former school is being expanded and rebuilt as a tourist facility with a restaurant and cultural attractions meant for visitors of the Blue Cave. There are more tourist attractions in preparation – the "Bear Cave" and also a system of underground tunnels from World War II, which may serve as a space for the organisation of, for example, natural or historical exhibitions.

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Tunnels from World War II on Biševo

Before Easter, in the tiny, unusual, ascetic church of St. Sylvester from the 11th century, I made the installation of Christ's tomb from stones and linen that I found on the beach. Also, a crown of thorns was made of the roots and plants brought by the sea. Locals joined me in these activities, and we shared a beautiful holiday, both in the spiritual and "bodily" sphere, preparing Easter treats from both Croatian and Polish cuisine together.

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Church of St. Sylvester from the 11th century

I love to paint, draw, create compositions from stones, plants, grass, and plant fibers. I often go to the nearby beach and collect what the sea brings me: pieces of glass, pieces of wood "polished" with the sea salt, interestingly shaped stones, shells, and cones. I then create various compositions from them; I just need to get the suitable glue and other necessary materials.

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An installation that Beata made of stone for Easter in the church of St. Sylvester on Biševo

I dream of creating the Biševo Museum in the future, where old objects and photos of life on the island and its inhabitants would be displayed, as well as artistic compositions made of materials that were thrown out by the sea. However, we'll need a suitable space for that, which is the hardest thing to find.

Describe your island life on Biševo without the water and the crowds, unlike your life in a big city like Warsaw?

In Warsaw, I lived very intensely and actively for more than 12 years. I had my own company, a husband, two sons, social activities, and that used to occupy almost all of my time, not leaving much free time just for myself. There has always been a longing for nature inside me, a desire to immerse myself in nature and live surrounded by it, away from all the hustle and bustle, all the rush and polluted air.

From that came my love of travelling and this long-dormant dream of living in Dalmatia. Now this dream is coming true because my sons are grown up, and after my husband's death, I found a partner who comes from the tiny island of Biševo.

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I'm living a simple life here, being at one with nature and the magnificent Mediterranean landscape that changes every day. In the morning, I open the window, listen to the cries of the seagulls and watch the shimmering colours: from azure – blue – to dark navy blue – the most beautiful sea in the world – the Adriatic Sea; huge palm trees and aloe trees, and carpets of colorful flowers.

Then we catch fish, grow herbs and flowers, we make jam from oranges, mandarins, aloe flowers, dry citrus peels, and herbs from which we also make teas, liqueurs, and tinctures, and we pickle fennel and capers. My partner Mladen is a great cook, so the daily kitchen activities are not too tiring.

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Beata and her partner Mladen fishing on Biševo

We're currently renovating the house and widening our garden, so there's a lot to do. The lack of running water on the island means that it is necessary to conserve it and use almost every drop we collect. The so-called 'guštirnie,' water tanks collecting the rainwater are an obvious necessity here, so each house has at least one of them.

In crises, when drought robs the island of rain, a ship that supplies water comes here so that we can buy it. Gardening is currently one of the biggest challenges for me. We have planted some vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers, and, despite the water restrictions and strong winds that often blow on the island, we hope we will able to harvest all we have planted.

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Porat Bay on Biševo island

You've gathered together 68,000 Poles in love with Croatia in one Facebook group. What's the name of the group? When did you start it, and for what purpose?

My private Facebook group called 'Chorwacja,' which I founded almost nine years ago, already has around 68,000 members, which confirms how very popular Croatia is among Poles, one of the top nationalities most frequently visiting Croatia. It has been said that last year the whole tourist season was saved thanks to the Polish tourists arriving in great numbers, despite the pandemic.

However, I noticed that even though so many tourists come from Poland to Croatia, there's still a lack of information available in Polish – in restaurants, cultural facilities, and guides. This gap should be filled as soon as possible. I founded the Facebook group to allow people to exchange experiences related to this country, discover exciting places, and promote Croatia's culture, history, and customs.

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