Croatian Assistant Minister of Agriculture Miro Kucic.(Photo: Stock File)
Croatian fishers fear changes coming with EU accession
Monday, July 01, 2013, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
The 3,700 fishers operating in Croatia’s eastern Adriatic are worried that the country accession to the European Union (EU) this week and the strict new laws and regulations to be implemented as a consequence may bring unsurpassable problems.
The new laws and regulations entail losing subsidies, the depth of trawl nets, the size of meshes and the introduction of much larger EU fishing vessels to the area.
Fishers will have to spend many thousands of dollars replacing their fishing gear, yet they will not be receiving subsidies or compensation to do it. Croatia’s Adriatic is small and relatively shallow and fishers employ traditional nets that are not compliant with the Common Fishing Policy (CFP), whose regulations were modeled mostly on fishing in a very different environment: the Atlantic Ocean, Reuters reports.
Most local fishers say that successive Zagreb governments that negotiated entry to the EU from 2005 to 2011 did not even try to protect their interest. There no negotiations and fishers were not offered anything, they claim.
Further, once the EU entry opens the eastern Adriatic to any fishing vessel from the EU, competition will be fierce. Most concerns relate to Italy’s vastly superior fleet, which has often poached Croatian resources, EurActive reports.
“There is still three to four times more fish on this side of the Adriatic. So the Italians’ interest is huge and we need to work with Italy to protect the Adriatic’s resources,” Croatian Assistant Minister of Agriculture and fishing expert Miro Kucic said.
Although in theory Croatia’s territorial waters will remain off limits to foreigners, there are loopholes: fishers say all a foreigner has to do is find a Croatian counterpart ready to close shop and sell his license and open a company there.
In contrast, Kucic believes Croatia can only now, as part of the EU, start fighting for its fishers.
“You couldn’t possibly expect that the EU would accept our laws during the negotiations, but now we can be an equal partner and start working with Italy and Slovenia, with whom we share similar problems in the Adriatic, to present our case,” he said.
Croatia wants to make exceptions to the CFP in consideration of the specifics of the Adriatic, which is both shallow and deep.
“Northern and western Europe, which effectively wrote the maritime laws, has 10 species of fish for commercial fishing. In the Adriatic, we have 80, plus hundreds of different tools the rest of Europe doesn’t know. So we need to fight now,” he said.
By Natalia Real