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Marina, the scientist fighting overfishing
© Ante Gugic

Marina Mašanović grew up in a small village called Baška Voda on the Croatian coast. During her first year at the University of Split Marina began studying Marine Fisheries, and as a result started joining her dad on his fishing trips to review the fish. 

Marina’s father was a fisherman of Norway lobsters (also known as scampi) and had dedicated almost 30 years to fishing for creels in the Brač and Hvar Channel. During Marina’s trips, she observed a dramatic drop in Norway lobster catches and decided to dedicate her research to thoroughly analyse this phenomenon. 

Her master thesis focused on Nephrops creel fishery in the Central and North Adriatic Sea. For the academic year 2012/2013 she received the Chancellor’s Award of University of Split for outstanding results achieved during studies. Today, Marina is a phD student at the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Study of Oceanography, Faculty of Science at the University of Zagreb. 


Research on the Norway Lobster Creel Decline in the Adriatic Sea

Results from Marinas analysis revealed that the catches of Norway lobster creel were declining every year in her area. During her research, the catch rate was so low Marina was unable to fulfill her work due to the lack of creel samples to make a good statistical analysis. Her father also had given up fishing after 30 years. 

These declining numbers made Marina think about the Norway lobster creel fishery in the Adriatic Sea from a broader perspective. To know more about the issue, she connected with Gordan Peranić, a fisherman from the Velebit channel, where she discovered that the Norway lobster creel catches had been stable in the Velebit channel area for the last 5 years.

After exhaustive discussions with fishermen and her father, Marina suspected the possible reason for the drop in catches in the channel areas occurred due to high fishing pressure.
In the channel areas of Brač and Hvar, Norway lobster populations are fished with creels as well as bottom trawl nets, while part of the Velebit Channel has been closed to trawl fishing since 1997. 

Bottom trawling is known as a multispecies fishery with high discard rate, while creels are selective for Norway lobster above Minimum Landing Size (MLS) and cause little or no bycatch. The majority of Norway lobsters are caught by bottom trawlers, while creels catch a smaller part. Creels cannot compete with bottom trawlers because of lower fishing efficiency - however, creels catch almost only large specimens, which gain a higher market value.

As Marina spent more time with fishers for her research, more problems arose regarding fisheries in the Adriatic. They thought about how to revive the Norway lobster creel stock fishers could increase their profit. Their goal was to make creel fishing competitive to bottom trawl fishing, so that some bottom trawl fishers would transfer to creel fishing.     

Marina aimed to create a sustainable creel fishery system for the current and future generations of fishers

Marina’s wish is to participate in the establishment of a pilot project in Velebit channel, which will include an agreement with fishers about special rules for fishing (bigger mesh opening of creels, exact number of creels, returning female individuals with external eggs back to the sea, etc.). 

The goal of this pilot project is to increase the value of Nephrops caught with creels, so that fishers in that region get a more sustainable creel fishery for a longer period of time. If the pilot project becomes successful, it will show fishers from other parts of Adriatic Sea and beyond, how creel fishing should be done to achieve greater market value of Norway lobster and more sustainable fishing overall.

"The Mediterranean is a closed system, and thus very sensitive. Any small change can result in a collapse." Marina

© Ante Gugic/Blue Future

Croatia has the second largest coastline in the Adriatic sea, covering 5.835 km and featuring 1.244 islands, islets, and reefs. With roughly 33% of the country's population residing on the coast, the country traditionally relies on the sea for much of its economic growth.     

The fisheries sector is traditionally important in Croatia, therefore is dependent on functioning maritime and fisheries policy to ensure sustainable fishing. The high quality of fishery products is attributed to favorable environmental conditions, the sea quality, the diversity of marine habitats, as well as the marked variety of commercially important species.

Small-scale fisheries make an important contribution to the food supply and economies of Croatian coastal communities.

WWF is working with small-scale fishers in Croatia, including in the Velebit channel where 45 small-scale fishers have licences to use lobster traps. The Velebit channel fishery is a great example of sustainability: one very selective tool, one species, and a limited impact on the environment.

Croatia stands to gain some € 98 million and 1600 jobs by transitioning from current fishing practices to the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).

© Ante Gugic/Blue Future