On July 3, 2023, a Panel Discussion on the Impact of Mariculture on the Marine Environment! was held at the Youth Center Split. The discussion focused on marine litter and seabird bycatch. The panel was organized by four students from the Master’s program in Ecology and Marine Protection, as well as Marine Fisheries at the University Department for Marine Studies in Split, as part of their Service – Learning (S-L) program.
What does the Service – Learning (S-L) program look like?
In SL programs, students actively engage in addressing the needs of their city, neighborhood, or society as a whole. With the support of mentors from Sunce, the aim of this program was to encourage students to independently design their own environmental protection projects, responsibly creating and implementing activities.
The student project was conceived within the activities of the LIFE Artina project. As a reminder, the main goal of the LIFE Artina project is to address key problems or threats in the conservation of three seabird species in the Adriatic – the Yelkouan Shearwater, Scopoli’s Shearwater, and Audouin’s Gull.
The program’s goal was also to connect students with their professors outside of the university premises. Such connections are important for their professional development and future practices after completing their studies.
During the program, students conducted research on the quality of the sea at fish farms, monitored marine waste, and conducted surveys at fish farms. They had the opportunity to actively participate in research and collaboration, independently carry out activities, and engage in communication. They presented the results of their research at the panel discussion.
Expert Panel Discussion
In addition to students, the Panel Discussion on the Impact of Mariculture on the Marine Environment! was attended by Dr. Pero Tutman from the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, Dr. Tanja Šegvić Bubić from the University of Split, and Ana Miletić from Sunce. These experts, from a scientific perspective, answered questions about all aspects of aquaculture, marine litter, seabird bycatch, and the challenges they face in their work.
With 15 years of experience in the field of aquaculture’s impact on the environment, Dr. Šegvić Bubić emphasized the importance of planning Croatia’s development based on a strategic plan founded on European guidelines.
Dr. Pero Tutman, an expert in marine litter, highlighted microplastics as one of the main issues related to marine litter. Microplastic particles, among other things, are created during net washing and abrasion and accumulate in shellfish tissues, posing a serious threat to marine ecosystems.
Discussion also revolved around the need for integrated management between aquaculture and tourism and the importance of moving fish farms away from the coast to reduce potential conflicts.
LIFE Artina Fisheries Officer Miletić pointed out the consequences of interactions between birds and fish farms, including bird disturbance, entanglement in nets, light pollution, and bird injuries. She also emphasized the importance of education and reporting such incidents.
The Panel Discussion on the Impact of Mariculture! on the Marine Environment proved to be extremely valuable for the exchange of valuable experiences among panelists and students. It provided students with a deeper understanding of the challenges and issues related to mariculture and imparted knowledge about sustainable solutions for protecting the marine environment.
Moreover, this S-L student project provided them with valuable experience in organizing such events, which will benefit them in their future careers.