The number of dolphins in the Adriatic Sea has been increasing for years. Not to everyone’s amusement. Fishermen in Istria and along the Croatian coast see marine mammals as one of the main reasons for empty nets. Since the summer of 2021, similar opinions have been increasing in the relevant Croatian media and can be heard by every fisherman who comes near a microphone. Latest example:
… moreover, she pointed to the problem of the excessive population of dolphins, which almost daily causes great material damage to fishermen, tearing their nets and eating the fish caught. She stressed that fishermen point out that the number of dolphins along the eastern Adriatic coast far exceeds that publicized by relevant scientific institutions and ministries and that the problem needs to be eliminated or mitigated.Source: Glas Istre
The above text comes from the Croatian Parliament and was heard on March 3, 2022, spoken by Kristina Nemet (IDS), a member of parliament from Istria.
Number of Dolphins in Croatia is Increasing
The number of dolphins in the Adriatic has increased in the last 5-6 years and the MEP is correct in her statement. We’ve been reporting on this for years. The number of dolphins along the eastern Adriatic coast is far greater than that indicated by the responsible scientific institutions, ministries and some protection associations.
In our opinion, the reason for empty fishing nets is more to be found in the overfishing in the Adriatic than in the increased number of dolphins in Croatia. The fishermen are already receiving financial compensation for the “damage” caused by the animals.
The problem has also been recognized by the EU. There are several EU funded projects to protect the dolphins, but also the interests of the fishermen.
Project for the Protection of Dolphins of the Adriatic Sea
One of the set goals of the EU project LIFE DELFI – Dolphin Experience: Lowering Fishing Interactions LIFE18 with project partners from Italy and Croatia is literally:
Information, advisory and technical support service for fishermen to support them on financing options, the use of deterrent systems and the transition from fishing to dolphin watching.
Translated – fishermen should switch from fishing to dolphin watching tours with EU funding.
Good Practice Examples
This is a process that can already be observed without funding. In Croatia, this is especially true for Istria. One of the dolphin tours in Istria that we have been advertising for years is – Fazana Dolphin Watching Sunset Tour Near Brijuni NP. It takes place with a fishing boat that has been converted for dolphin tours. The previous owner has completely left the fishery.
The currently best dolphin tour in Istria – from Porec Dolphin Watching Sunset Tour with Top Boat also takes place with a former fishing boat. The conversion of the fishing boat has been particularly successful here. A conversion and the switch from fishing to operating dolphin tours is financially worthwhile.
Another goal of the project is the training of operators of dolphin watching tours. This training will hopefully help the tours remove the (sometimes deserved) stigma attached to dolphin tours. Dolphin protection organizations and marine researchers are not opposed to the tours, as long as operators adhere to known rules.
In the past, fishermen on both sides of the Adriatic were not gentle with the animals, this has only changed significantly in recent times with the increasing popularity of dolphin tours and the associated income. In 2019, a pregnant female dolphin was stranded near Pula with several bullets in its head. We hope it was the last one to meet such terrible fate.