WHY LIFE ARTINA?
All around the world, thousands of birds and their habitats are endangered. For that reason, it is important to preserve bird populations where they naturally come. The focus of conservation should not only be on breeding grounds, but also in other areas such as migratory routes, wintering grounds and feeding areas. Over the past few decades, the importance of bird conservation and the exchange of knowledge has increased. In order to achieve greater protection of birds and their habitats therefore regulations have been introduced at national and EU level. As a result, the ecological network Natura 2000 has been proclaimed, covering 28 European countries and today is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. The main objective of the ecological network is to protect the most valuable and most endangered species and habitats in Europe.
The ecological network (Natura 2000) in Croatia covers 36.73% of its land area and 15.42% of territorial sea. Due to lack of data, to date, only 3.29% of the Croatian sea has been designated as the conservation areas important for birds – Special Protection Area (SPA). SPAs are part of ecological network, important for the conservation and achieving the favorable status of wild bird species of interest to the European Union as well as their habitats and areas important for the conservation of migratory species of birds, particularly wetland areas of international importance. Only islands with known breeding colonies of seabirds, and narrow buffer areas around them, have been designated as SPAs in Croatia leaving out areas at sea that are significant as feeding areas and breeding grounds of seabird species. This is insufficient for effective management of pelagic seabirds such as the Yelkouan Shearwater, Scopoli’s Shearwater and the Audouin’s Gull.
The LIFE Artina Project is designed to address the main problems of the protection of three marine species: the Audouin’s Gull, the Scopoli’s Shearwater and Yelkouan Shearwater. The name Artina is derived from the local dialect of Lastovo’s island for Yelkouan Shearwater which is also the endemic species of the Mediterranean. Since it only nests in the central part of the Adriatic its population is under great pressure. The project area is very important not only for the Yelkouan Shearwater, but for the Audouin’s Gull and Scopoli’s Shearwater as well. Their populations present here make up to 70% and 100% respectively of the total population present in Croatia. The population of Scopoli’s Shearwater and Yelkouan Shearwater is negatively impacted by alien terrestrial invasive species (ship rats) especially during breeding season, while the Audouin’s Gull is in intraspecific competition with the Yellow-legged gull. For that reason, the project is planning to set up a base for the recovery of marine bird populations in two neighboring SPA areas in southern part of Croatia, the SPA Lastovsko otočje (Lastovo Islands) and the SPA Pučinski otoci (Pelagic Islands).
Furthermore, the projects’ aim is to collect as much data as possible (biological data, fisheries data, oceanographic data) needed to identify and designate new areas of importance for birds (SPA) that will be completely at sea. This strategy will in the long term contribute to the effective management of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia with the aim to conserve sea bird species. By setting up of the new marine SPAs in Croatia, Croatia would join the majority of the EU countries that have already protected such areas.