Written by: Zrinka Jakl, mag. biol.
Head of the Nature Protection Program
Science has proven the positive effects of marine protected areas on preserving the marine ecosystem and the economy of local communities. Nevertheless, most marine protected areas in Croatia and beyond are still ineffective. Different studies have tried to deal with this question. The reasons are mostly repeated – lack of management plan and regulation, lack of cooperation, and ineffective supervision.
Protected area Telašćica Nature Park
Although it was founded in 1988, in 2008 the Telašćica Nature Park, when the MedPAN South Croatia project was started, was a protected area that did not have any of the basics for efficiency. Participatory development of the management plan initiated cooperation with stakeholders that did not exist until then and collaboration of employees within the institution. However, creating the management plan opened up a series of issues related to other, even more critical, strategic and regulatory documents regulating the management of marine protected areas in Croatia. It was shocking to realize then that adopting key regulatory documents is outside the competence of the public institution responsible for control under the Nature Protection Act. Those in charge have almost no authority! It was difficult to accept this sad fact, but its non-acceptance did not change the existing legislative framework or the situation. A change could not come from despair, but only through enthusiasm, cooperation and time.
Then it was necessary to take advantage of the opportunity – create a management plan and build on the creation of new opportunities for change.
Creation of the management plan and advocacy of the legal framework
It became clear that the management plan is a strategic document that will finally organize in one place what needs to be preserved in the Park and how. But how to regulate human activities, on what basis to impose fines, with which legal document to regulate fishing in the Park, with which anchoring, with which visiting… All of this needed to be clarified to us who drew up the Plan and those in Zagreb who are supposedly in charge.
Fortunately, in parallel with the creation of the Plan, we had the opportunity to advocate for the improvement of the national legal framework, which at least put a little order: who, what and by what act will be regulated. To create the basis for achieving efficiency in the coming years, we had to draw up several documents and adopt them to ensure they were aligned. They mirrored the vision agreed upon in the management plan.
It should be noted again that the competent institution for the management of the Telašćica Nature Park was not fully capable of creating and adopting any of the acts above. The institution was supposed to advocate its vision in spatial planning, the fisheries administration, the ministry of environmental protection, and Sunce, as a CSO, should follow them to maintain the transparency of the process and so that the final drafts would not leave the vision of the management plan. The Telašćica Nature Park was a chance to show how it is possible, for the first time in Croatia, to arrange a legislative framework for managing marine protected areas that will enable the implementation of protection on the ground.
And there were days, months and years when nothing moved from the standstill. No answers to letters or invitations, the establishment of commissions that did not hold a single meeting, non-existent or distorted minutes of meetings… and eternal waiting, waiting, patience. Changing waves of enthusiasm and disappointment both for the Park and stakeholders, indifference, failed opportunities for financing, changes of employees, authorities… And then, somehow, even this state structure shifted.
The entire legislative framework was finally agreed upon in 2022
The Telašćica Nature Park management plan was adopted in 2012, the spatial plan in 2014, and the sustainable tourism plan in 2017. In 2020, the ordinance on fishing in protected areas was finally adopted, and then the regulation on protection and conservation in 2022. After a long time, the entire legislative framework was finally agreed upon, and Telašćica became an old/new protected area in the Adriatic with zones without fishing and the framework for actions in the field.
At one point, we lost faith that the documents would ever be passed. All that time and frustration, promises, and waiting ate us up. We had so much banter about celebrations when each of these documents was passed. Then it was passed during the coronavirus pandemic, which further isolated us and made it impossible to celebrate properly. That’s how the moment came and went for us to stop and celebrate the success.
It took me a few more years to write this article and look back on everything that happened.
The implementation phase came too quickly. We all knew it was another chapter that would be just as difficult.
Who allowed the Telašćica Nature Park to have an orderly legislative framework?
And when you ask me what is the basis for efficiency, I will say from the heart – people. It would be unbelievable to list all who played their part, moved their wheel, moved the other wheel, etc. Everything stems from people, their motivation and faith in a better tomorrow. A few of these are enough to achieve the impossible. Unfortunately, a few different ones are enough to bring everything down.
And that’s why let’s protect the Telašćica Nature Park. Let’s praise what they managed to achieve because the truth is that no other marine park in Croatia has yet reached this.
True, things on the ground are far from ideal. We have a lot of work to do on implementation. It is the second chapter of this success story, the chapter that is still being written, and with a bit of help from each of us, it will be an even better story.
Suppose you ask me after this whole process what is the key ingredient for the effectiveness of the protected area. In that case, I will repeat it: courageous and persistent people whose goals do not change with government changes even despite sometimes dire forecasts for nature. They are the ones who create the future, and it can still be beautiful and rich, both for wildlife and people.
Thank you to all the wonderful people who were part of this positive story and those who will be part of the one yet to come.