The project area includes two sites SPA Lastovsko otočje and SPA Pučinski otoci listed as a special protected area for birds (SPA) within the Natura 2000 ecological network. These areas were chosen for their importance for endangered seabird species, namely the Audouin’s Gull, Yelkouan Shearwater and Scopoli’s Shearwater. Also, they are on important Adriatic migratory route for birds and important areas for other bird species, such as Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), crane (Grus grus) and other. In addition, SPA Lastovsko otočje also harbors a significant national breeding population of other bird species.
SPA Lastovsko otočje (Lastovo Islands)
SPA Lastovsko otočje is located in the central Adriatic, in the region of Dalmatia, and is comprised of 46 islands and islets, with an east – west orientation. In this archipelago the largest island is the island of Lastovo with more than 40 km2 of land surface, while all other islands together cover around 12 km2 of land. Within the Lastovo archipelago, the sea covers around 143 km2. The entire archipelago consists of limestone and dolomitic rocks, and the island of Lastovo also has many small karst valleys. SPA Lastovsko otočje is also protected in the national category as the Nature Park Lastovo Islands (http://pp-lastovo.hr/). This area is of the vital importance to project target species where more than 50% of the Croatian population of Yelkouan Shearwater, about 30 – 70% of the Croatian population of the Scopoli’s Shearwater and almost 100% of the Croatian population of the Audouin’s Gull are present.
SPA Pučinski otoci (Pelagic Islands)
The SPA Pučinski otoci encompasses the main island of Vis, islets of the Vis archipelago and Palagruža islands, and of islands Biševo, St. Andrew (Svetac), Brusnik and Jabuka. Palagruža archipelago consists of a group of islets and rocks, dominated by the islands Velika Palagruža and Mala Palagruža. This is a group of islands farthest from the Croatian mainland and are important for biodiversity and conservation of the target sea birds, especially for Scopoli’s Shearwater, due to their off-shore position and due to its remoteness. The Ministry of Environment and Energy has submitted an application for this area to become UNESCO Geopark Vis archipelago which also confirms its’ importance (https://aspiring.geopark-vis.com/).
The Scopoli’s Shearwater colonies present in Palagruža archipelago are the closest to the breeding colonies of Scopoli’s Shearwater at the Tremiti islands, Italy, and to the colony in the Lastovo archipelago, which are both the strongholds of Scopoli’s Shearwater in the Adriatic Sea. It is therefore necessary to examine the exact movements of Scopoli’s Shearwaters in the Palagruža area. Furthermore, the surrounding sea around Palagruža is important fishing grounds (fishermen of Komiža) what indicates richness in fish stocks, in particular sardines. Longline fishery is common around the archipelago and thus a potential hotspot of bycatches of seabirds in Croatian territorial waters threatening the breeding colonies of Scopoli’s Shearwater.