Sunday, 22 May 2022

Only 20 Croatian Noble Pen Shells Left Alive in Adriatic Sea

May the 22nd, 2022 - There are only twenty living Croatian noble pen shells left in this country's part of the Adriatic Sea. A very important project is now underway to try to stop this shellfish from entering the history books entirely, from which it would likely never return.

As Morski/Bruna Rizvanovic writes, the noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) is a strictly protected species in the Republic of Croatia, and is on the Red List of critically endangered species due to mass deaths caused by parasites (Haplosporidium pinnae) and bacteria (Mycobacterium sp.). The first confirmation of the outbreak in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea was received back in 2019. The contagion spread and affected the entire Croatian part of the Adriatic. Unfortunately, the plague did not bypass Lastovo's surrounding waters either.

The goal of the project entitled "The conservation of the noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) in the Adriatic Sea" is to preserve and save this stunning Mediterranean endemic species of shellfish from extinction, and there are very, very few living specimens of the Croatian noble pen shell left to speak of. This praiseworthy project is being coordinated by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of the Republic of Croatia, and is being funded by the Energy Efficiency Fund.

The project funds are intended for the implementation of in situ activities, such as setting up collectors for larvae, searching the seabed for living Croatian noble pen shell individuals and ensuring their full protection with the use of cages, shielding them from predators and anthropogenic impact, as well as further education. It also includes ex situ activities such as the placement of live individuals in controlled systems, their maintenance, and running laboratory diagnostics.

Currently, there are about 20 living Croatian noble pen shell individuals in this country's part of the Adriatic Sea, and marine searches for more are still ongoing. This week, the research team of the Croatian Veterinary Institute and the staff of the Lastovo Islands Nature Park have set up collectors to receive larvae in the waters surrounding Lastovo, which will be inspected in October. The collectors installed at six locations are located at a depth of 10 to 15 metres below the surface and are marked on with red buoys. If you spot them on your sailing route, be careful and make sure to totally avoid them.

If a Croatian noble pen shell is discovered and is potentially alive, you should very, very gently pass your hand over it through the water, and if it is alive, the shell will close itself in response to the disturbance. Care should be taken not to touch the individual and to disturb it as little as possible. You should then report your finding and its location by clicking this link.

Any intentional extraction of living or dead individuals is strictly prohibited by Croatian law.

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Sunday, 27 March 2022

'Extinct' Angelshark Returns to Adriatic

ZAGREB, 27 March 2022 - Three years ago, shoppers at the fish market at Zagreb's Dolac open-air farmers market noticed a baby Angelshark, which made conservations both excited and worried.

The Angelshark is one of the calmest and most endangered shark species, considered to be nearly extinct in the Adriatic.

The juvenile Angelshark at Zagreb's Dolac market "indicated that there exists a breeding population", however, it was worrying that "an endangered and strictly protected species was offered for sale," said Pero Ugarković, an associate on a research project on Angelsharks in the Adriatic.

After that discovery, a research was launched to establish how many Angelsharks currently live in the Adriatic.

The project was headed by the WWF Adria non-profit organisation, in cooperation with the Split-based Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries.

Its results show that the Angelshark population, once inhabiting the whole of the Adriatic, has shrunk dramatically and now mostly inhabits the area around the island of Molat in the Zadar archipelago.

Minding its own business

The Angelshark resembles the skate and is a master of camouflage. It buries itself in sediment and ambushes its prey, and can grow to be more than a metre and a half long. It lives in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic but is critically endangered in all of its habitats.

More than 30 shark species have so far been recorded in the Adriatic, and almost all are innocuous to humans. The size of the Angelshark population in the Adriatic was once significant, with fishermen even using nets designed specifically for Angelsharks.

This has not been the case for decades now, and footage of Angelsharks being caught accidentally and returned to the sea, occasionally posted on social networks, gives rise to hope that the Angelshark will survive.

The species grows slowly, reaches reproductive age late in life and has a small litter, therefore making it very vulnerable to fishing pressures. On top of that, it inhabits shallow coastal waters where fishing is very intense. After it was declared a protected species, the Angelshark went from being a target species, to a bycatch.

Patrik Krstinić, an associate for sea and marine biodiversity protection at WWF Adria, warns that fishing with trawl nets and gillnets poses the biggest threat to the Angelshark. He believes that the Angelshark is unlikely to survive with the existing pressure of fishing in Croatia's coastal area.

Krstinić says that maritime spatial planning is necessary and that currently 30% of the sea should be put under protection until 2030, of which 10% should be strictly protected, with no fishing activity allowed, citing that the Jabuka Pit as a good example.

Deficient legal regulations are the problem, he says, noting that they make it possible for an area to be put under protection, yet some are allowed to fish in it.

Krstinić notes that the silver lining in this situation is that without human influences in an area, its biodiversity can be restored very quickly.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Mediterranean Monk Seal: A Natural Treasure Worth Bringing Back

3 March 2022 – It may come as a surprise that Croatia, a tiny Slavic nation wedged in an unfamiliar corner of the atlas, is home to some of Europe’s most spectacular biodiversity. Within a relatively modest 56,594 km2, Croatia curates a complete collection of floral and faunal wonders, many of which are at critical risk of disappearing. None more so than the Mediterranean monk seal, the rarest seal on earth. 

Long before the time of Diocletian, the Mediterranean monk seal thrived amongst the sliver-shaped islands of the eastern Adriatic. Going back to the early 20th century, residents could observe these endearing pinnipeds congregating along the beaches of Southern Europe, North Africa, and Macaronesia. Regrettably, due to systematic hunting and increased human activity, the range of this once prosperous species has dwindled to only a few fragmented populations centered mainly around the Portuguese Island of Madeira, the west African peninsula of Cabo Blanco peninsula, and the Aegean Sea. However, as recently as 2021, monk seals sightings have been recorded in select locations throughout their former territory, including Croatia, providing conservationists with cautious optimism for the future of this maritime treasure.

Representing the sole member of the genus Monachus, Mediterranean monks are the rarest of the world’s 33 seal species. With an estimated global population of approximately 700, this once common coastal occupant has turned into Europe’s most critically endangered marine mammal. According to the IUCN, this species is classified as engangered, a classification last updated in 2015.

Alongside the Hawaiian monk seal, Mediterranean monks form an exclusive club within the Family Phocidae. While most members of this taxa have adapted to polar and subpolar climates, monk seals reside in more temperate regions, a trait that puts them in closer direct contact with humans. 

Much like the people who share their subtropical home, monk seals have a taste fish and octopi, diving up to 200 m to find the eight-legged delicacy. This mutual love of seafood has been listed as a contributing factor of monk seal population decline. Hungry seals are drawn to fishing nets and the catch within, often becoming ensnared and drowning in the process. According to the Eastern Adriatic Monk Seal Project website, up to 46% of sub-adult seal deaths can be attributed to such accidental drowning events. Deliberate killings could be to blame for up to 50% of deaths in adults, possibly because of competition with fishermen. In the face of these shocking figures, the need for further conservation efforts is abundantly clear. 

Prior to the industrial revolution and slightly after, open beaches were the main birthing ground for Mediterranean monk seals. Over the past century, due to increased tourism and industry along the coast, female monk seals have left their former pupping terrirory, instead seeking out undersea caves where they can give birth and rear pups without human disturbances. The 9–11-month gestation period contributes significantly to the delayed recovery of monk seal populations, with adults only baring only a single pup per reproductive cycle. 

Despite these threats, help is on the horizon. National governments and NGOs have taken action to repopulate regions where the pinnipeds have been wiped out. In Croatia, monk seals have been safeguarded under the Nature Protections Act since 2003, instating fines of 100,000 kuna to anyone caught killing a monk seal. Moreover, the Biom Association, one of Croatia’s largest nature conservation NGOs, has teamed up with partners from Greece, Montenegro, and Albania to create the previously mentioned Eastern Adriatic Monk Seal project. The goal of this collaboration is to identify suitable habitats as well as obstacles that obstruct the pathway towards possible reintroduction of the species. 

The case of the Mediterranean monk seal provides us with a stark reminder of the impact of human actions on the environment. Thanks in part to strong shows on environmental stewardship by local leaders, early indicators of seal population recovery are optimistic. However, these are only the first steps on the much broader issue of international systemic neglect of the natural world. Many consider Croatia a paradise on earth, but to coninue earning this title locals must protect all those who call it home, including those with flippers.

Lifestyle: For more, check out our lifestyle section.  

Friday, 11 February 2022

Protecting Oceans One of Biggest Global Challenges, Croatian PM Says

ZAGREB, 11 Feb 2022 - Protecting oceans is one of the most important global challenges and Croatia wants to make additional efforts in combating sea pollution and preserving biodiversity, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brest, France on Friday.

"Protecting oceans, the biggest ecosystem on Earth, is equal to protecting our planet, preserving our biodiversity, our lives," he said at the One Ocean summit, which he attended at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Plenković said protecting oceans and seas was necessary and that, as a maritime country, Croatia wanted to set an example in the fight against the ocean and sea pollution.

Oceans absorb one-third of global carbon emissions and play an important role in lowering the global temperature, but they are not immune to climate change and human impact, so it's necessary to protect them.

Croatia has banned plastic bags and single-use plastic products and intends to contribute to the global goal of protecting oceans, Plenković said. "By 2030, we will protect 30% of the sea under our jurisdiction."

Croatia wants to designate more restricted fishing areas so that excessively exploited marine ecosystems can replenish on the model of Jabučka Kotlina, an example of how to replenish the fish stock and preserve biodiversity to the satisfaction of fishermen, scientists, and all people.

"That shows that protecting a small area can significantly advance biodiversity and food safety," Plenković said.

After his address, he wrote on Twitter that "protecting oceans is one of the most important global challenges" and that "on the 40th anniversary of the Convention on the Law of the Sea we must invest the maximum effort to conclude an agreement on the preservation of biodiversity above national legislative frameworks."

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Sushi Drop Project Preserves Adriatic in Split-Dalmatia County

January 11, 2022 - Split-Dalmatia County, with partners the Sunce Association and the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (IZOR), joined the Sushi Drop project to preserve the Adriatic and develop non-invasive methods of marine monitoring.

The Adriatic Sea boasts one of the highest productivity and biodiversity, but it is also significantly influenced by human activities such as fishing, aquaculture, and tourism. Scientific research and monitoring of fish communities have been conducted for decades. Still, the depth of fauna has been poorly researched, and fishing regulation measures apply to the shallower areas of the Adriatic, where fishing mostly takes place, reports Dalmacija Danas.

Existing knowledge of the sea has been consolidated by many years of research in areas up to 50 meters deep. On the other hand, a better understanding of the observed habitats is essential due to the greater effectiveness of existing protection measures and new conservation measures based on scientific evidence. That is why it is imperative to monitor the state of marine ecosystems and conduct research in a non-invasive way because traditional tools (brakes and divers) have limitations. The number of dives per day is limited, and diving at depths greater than 40 meters is dangerous. At the same time, trawls are extremely indiscriminate because they affect almost all organisms on the route during the retreat.


Udruga Sunce

Therefore, to preserve the Adriatic and develop non-invasive methods of marine monitoring, Split-Dalmatia County, with partners the Sunce Association and the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (IZOR), joined the SUSHI DROP project (Sustainable Fisheries with DROnes Data Processing), which, after two years of work, in cooperation with Italian partners, was completed. The project's total value was 1,714,847.50 EUR, and it was financed through the EU program Interreg Italy - Croatia.

During the project, a survey was conducted among key stakeholders to confirm that they are well aware of the existence and importance of using non-invasive technological solutions. Then, in the Split channel, marine habitat sampling was carried out to collect data on the state of benthic communities using various methodologies: conventional hut survey was conducted by IZOR, the Sunce Association conducted diver sampling, and drone sampling was conducted in cooperation with Croatian and Italian partners. The results obtained by different methods regarding the quality of the collected data were compared, as well as the amount of time and resources invested. It was confirmed that the drone could significantly contribute to data collection and determining the situation in research. Depending on the goal and purpose of the research, it may be the only method, or it may be used as an additional technology. The advantages of using drones are the reduction of risks associated with the work of divers, the accuracy of the calculation of the abundance index of marine organisms, and the ability to assess biodiversity at depth.


Udruga Sunce

All data collected by traditional methods and drones are available on the Geographic Information System (GIS) - an open-access database created in the project's final phase and open to scientists, researchers, non-governmental organizations, entities involved in the blue economy, and decision-makers.

Since the underwater drone can only obtain data on the current state of the study area, it will gain importance only after a long period of monitoring the set parameters. It can be used to monitor the condition of Posidonia meadows, coral extinction due to temperature, and climate change. It allows the collection of data to create detailed 3D views of the study area, which helps to explore the seabed and the reef. Also, the advantage of exploring the sea by underwater drone is that the exact boundaries of individual habitats could potentially be defined.

The SUSHI DROP project also resulted in a proposal of possible measures to protect biological diversity in the considered habitats, taking into account socio-economic factors. It is advisable to modify fishing equipment and techniques to reduce by-catches, increase the number of fish species for which assessments are made, establish and harmonize national administrations for all significant fishing areas and monitor climate change more closely. Among the recommendations are the diversification of fishing activities, the application of branding, and the certification of products obtained from the sea to improve their quality and increase value.

It is also essential to promote an approach based on joint decision-making in fisheries and environmental protection, involving all relevant stakeholders: fishers, NGOs, and decision-makers. Only a common approach can establish long-term sustainable fisheries in a preserved marine ecosystem and promote good practices and working methods to reduce human pressure on the marine environment.

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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.


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.


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 -, CC BY 2.0,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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 -, CC BY 3.0,

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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