Croatia - Contribution to the mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 based on the 5th national report to CBD

To report on progress to the EU 2020 biodiversity strategy, the European Commission extracted relevant information from the EU Member States’ 5th national reports to the CBD. Of the 5 countries which had not finalized their national reports at the time of the synthesis (26th of August 2015), Greece, Malta, Portugal and Lithuania provided information to be included in the synthesis.

The 5th national reports were examined, and relevant information on selected actions under Targets 1-6 of the EU biodiversity strategy was directly copied. Thus, the information presented here is in the original language and wording of the 5th national reports.

The focus was on information that is particular to the respective Member State rather than referencing EU wide information. In addition, only information that is not directly reported to the European Commission by Member States was retrieved from the reports. Each Member State had the opportunity to review the synthesis of its report and to provide additional input. For more information, please view here. The 5th national report for Croatia can be downloaded here.

EU target 1

Fully implement the Birds and Habitats Directives

Action 1b:

Natura 2000 (and other protected areas)

(Please note that information from member states in relation to EU Target 1a is supplied to the European Commission via other reports. To avoid duplication of reporting, information relating to EU Target 1a has not been included in this report)

There is the obligation, according to the Nature Protection Act (NPA), that all physical planning documents and sectorial management plans for use of natural resources, incorporate nature protection requirements issued by the Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection (MENP); trend in implementation since 2010 is positive as new sectors are included in the process, like water management (annual program of works) and partly agriculture (tenders for use of agriculture land). However, in some sectors, like marine and freshwater fisheries, their implementation needs to be improved.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) procedure for policy strategies is obligatory from 2013. Ecological Network Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment procedures are obligatory and are regularly being implemented.

Action 1c:

Natura 2000 (and other protected areas)

Having in mind that Republic of Croatia entered the EU on 1 July 2013, in the previous period it was mostly focused on the establishment of the ecological network Natura 2000. There are 780 sites of ecological Network Natura 2000 covering 29.38% of the total surface of Croatia (including the sea).

Conservation objectives and conservation measures for birds in the SPAs are defined by Ordinance adopted in 2014. In the upcoming period Croatia will focus more on implementation of the defined conservation measures for SPAs and identification of the most appropriate conservation measures for species and habitat types that are target features of pSCIs/SCIs, in line with the provisions of the Habitats Directive.

Process of adoption and/or revision of management plans for protected areas and preparation of adequate management framework for the sites of ecological network have significantly intensified.

EU target 2

Maintain and restore ecosystems and their services

The issue of ecosystem services is still quite new for Croatia. The topic has been indirectly integrated in the NBSAP 2008 within the chapter Protection of biodiversity and Sustainable use of natural resources. Although no specific activities were envisaged by NBSAP 2008, it can be stated that ecosystems contributing to carbon stocks (e.g. forests, wetlands, Posidonia beds) in Croatia are generally in good condition to perform this function.

The relatively new issue of ecosystem services in Croatia is being mainstreamed in revised National Biodiversity and Action Plan for Nature Protection (NBSAP). One of the NBSAP Targets is the detailed mapping of ecosystem services with the aim of their economic valorization and improvement of their services through cooperation with different relevant sectors and stakeholders.

The project called “Freshwater Ecosystem Services in Croatia” was one of the first steps towards comprehending this matter. In January 2015 Croatian Environmental Agency has published the baseline study on ecosystems and their services in Croatia. The preliminary map of ecosystems in Croatia, estimated state of ecosystems based on the available data and the corresponding national indicators were established in this study.

Spatial overview of terrestrial habitats of the Republic of Croatia in the form of a spatial database in a cartographic scale of 1:25,000 (currently in a scale of 1:100,000) is underway and a detailed map will be available by April 2016. With this new detailed habitat map it will be possible to undertake a more comprehensive mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services in Croatia, which is envisaged to start in 2017 within the framework of ESI funds.

Total consumption of mineral fertilizers has decreased by 30% during the last 5-years period. There is no precise data on consumption of pesticides. A National plan for sustainable use of pesticides was adopted in 2013. Environmental, water management, agriculture, forestry, energy and industry sectors have set up standards for prevention of environmental pollution.

Action 6a:

Ecosystem restoration and green infrastructure

Information available on Natura 2000 data covering the total surface of Croatia (including the sea). Process of preparation and designation of management plans for protected areas and sites of ecological network has significantly intensified.

A number of activities related to assessment of the values of biodiversity and economic valuation of its ecosystem services have been initiated recently through implementation of different projects and studies. Evaluation of progress on this issue cannot still be performed. Sustainable use of natural resources has been ensured through different mechanisms.

Action 6b:

Ecosystem restoration and green infrastructure

The most of natural HTs are decreasing: watercourses and adjacent wetlands due to regulation works; coastal habitats due to building and tourism related activities; grasslands overgrowing due to ceasing of traditional use - mowing and grazing. Fragmentation of habitats was increased due to increased building of highways and other roads. Although the construction of roads and other transport routes results in habitat fragmentation, potential threats to large carnivores from highway construction have been reduced through the construction of green bridges, serving as animal corridors.

Today there are 11 such crossings, which are regularly monitored, including the use of camera traps that document what is happening on individual crossings. Monitoring proves that crossings are highly effective and used regularly by large carnivores and other animals. Having in mind that roughly one third of Croatian Natura 2000 network important for biodiversity is agricultural land, within the Programme of Rural Development of the Republic of Croatia for the period 2014-2020 submeasure “Support for non-productive investments linked to the achievement of agri-environment-climate objectives” was developed. Within this submeasure, restoration of habitats important for biodiversity conservation, like meadows, pastures and ponds for livestock watering, can be financed.

Additionally, in order to ensure maintenance and preservation of the valuable habitats, submeasure “Payment for agri-environment-climate commitments” was developed.

EU target 3

Increase the contribution of agriculture and forestry to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity

Target 3a: Agriculture

Area under organic production is growing - from 0.8% of utilized agricultural area in 2008 to 3.12% in 2013, while the number of organic farmers increased from 632 in 2008 to 1609 in 2013.

Action 9a & 9b:

Rural development and biodiversity

New incentives for biodiversity conservation have been designed as a part of submeasure “Payment for agri-environment-climate commitments”, as well as submeasure “Support for non-productive investments linked to the achievement of agri-environment-climate objectives” under EAFRD and are incorporated into Rural Development Programme of the Republic of Croatia for the period 2014-2020.

Action 10:

Agricultural genetic diversity

27 indigenous breeds of domesticated animals are recognized and preserved in Croatia. Threat assessment for 26 indigenous breeds of domesticated animals has been done using adjusted version of IUCN classification Operational Program for Establishment of Gene Bank of Domesticated Animals in the Republic of Croatia has been prepared. National Program of Conservation of Indigenous and Protected Breeds of Domesticated Animals was adopted in 2010 and partly implemented National Program of Conservation and Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has been adopted but not implemented.

Submeasure “Support to conservation of genetic resources in agriculture” is incorporated into Rural Development Programme of the Republic of Croatia for the period 2014-2020. The genetic potential in Croatia is very valuable, especially from the biodiversity view and the need of agriculture to adapt to obvious climate change conditions. The priority is not only to preserve the traditional plant and animal species adapted to local conditions but all those varieties and breeds that, although they have no economic value, could be used as the basis for creating new or improving the performance of existing varieties of agricultural plants and domestic animal breeds.

Support will be provided to beneficiaries who prevent the erosion of plant and animal genetic resources and contribute to the improvement of their sustainable use, development and conservation aiming to achieve global food safety, sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation. As a part of measure “Payment for agri-environment-climate commitments” operation “Preservation of endangered native and protected breeds of domestic animals” will be financed.

Support for their preservation will be provided with the aim to reduce the risk of their extinction. During the same period, preservation of native and protected breeds of plants will be financed with national resources.

Action 12:

Biodiversity in forest management plans

Croatian Forests Ltd, that manages all state-owned forests (2,018,987 ha or 35.67% of Croatia), has renewed in 2012 the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) for the whole area under their management, for the next 5 years; forests also cover 35% of Natura 2000 area. Since 2003 there is an obligation, according to the NPA, that all forest management plans incorporate nature protection requirements.

EU target 4

Ensure the sustainable use of fisheries resources and ensuring good environmental status of the marine environment

Action 13a: Fish stock managementTrends in biomass are being registered. In some segments of fishing fleet, catch per unit effort decreased. In some segments of fishing fleet, fishing effort increased.

Action 13b: Fish stock managementPreparation of management plans for individual fishing tools or fishing areas in order to establish long-term sustainable exploitation and to ensure the protection of marine biological resources has started.

Management plan for bottom trawl fisheries and Management plan for surrounding purse seine nets have been adopted by Government.

Given that the scope of the EMFF includes support for the CFP (for the conservation of marine biological resources, protection and restoration of aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as the ecological network Natura 2000) and support to Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), biodiversity-related measures are incorporated in the draft of sectoral operational programme.

Action 14a:

Adverse impacts on fish stocks, species, habitats and ecosystems

In order to reduce the negative impacts of fisheries on strictly protected marine species, education of fishermen how to deal with accidentally caught cetaceans and sea turtles has started. In order to improve MPA management at local level through filling gaps in fisheries knowledge, fieldwork on the assessment of coastal fisheries resources was performed;

Assessment and monitoring of coastal fisheries resources and socio-economic research of local fisheries at selected areas of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County” (Fishery study)

The NETCET project (Network for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Sea Turtles and the Adriatic) which has begun with activities implementation in 2012 also has organized the workshops with the local fisherman and divers with the aim to educate them in the cases of accidentally catching or finding dead, sick or injured strictly protected marine animals.

EU target 5

Combat Invasive Alien Species

The number of registered invasive alien species is increasing, but due to lack of data the trend can still not be determined. Control and eradication of some invasive animal and plant species is conducted. Public awareness is increasing due to improved information activities (web page, publications etc). The national survey of public awareness about nature protection from 2013 showed awareness of problem of invasive alien species; suggested priority actions relate to the need for further education, strengthening of prevention and timely detecting of invasive species. The NPA from 2013 was improved by regulating the criteria for import and placement on the market of the alien species, as well as their introduction into the nature, taking into consideration the risk assessment protocols in order to predict their invasiveness. Preparation of new Invasive Alien Species Act is underway. Also, under the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014-2020, activities related to the inventarization, prioritization, eradication and controlling of IAS are envisaged.

EU target 6

Help avert global biodiversity loss

Action 17c:

Drivers of biodiversity loss

Croatia has positive experience regarding Environmental fiscal reform (EFR) referring to a range of taxation and pricing measures based on “polluter pays principles”. Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund was established in 2004, in order to secure additional funds to finance projects, programs and similar activities in the field of conservation, sustainable use, protection and improvement of the environment and nature. National parks (and few nature parks) collect entrance fees, and such income represents at the same time a significant part of their own income. Nature parks collect fees mainly for other services (guided tours, schools in nature, special programs, etc.). Another mechanism that exists is vignettes that marine vessels need to purchase when entering Croatia by sea. Part (10%) of the income from vignettes goes to the marine national and nature parks (5 parks in total), in accordance with the Sojourn Tax Act.

As a new EU Member State, in the next programming period 2014-2020 Croatia is planning to fully implement agri-environment programme, in addition to demands of cross-compliance in agriculture, contributing in this way to sustainable agriculture, i.e. linking incentives with good agricultural practice, rather than overall agricultural production. In addition, incentives for fisheries and aquaculture will also be related to environment friendly and resource efficient practices, e.g. starting from 2014 Croatia introduced incentives for the temporary cessation of fishing activities supporting in this way recovery of fish stocks.

Action 18a:

Resources for global biodiversity conservation

As the youngest MS, Croatia until recently had the status of country with economy in transition and therefore has received international funding and contributions from international organizations for biodiversity-related activities. In the upcoming period, Croatia will further define modalities for international contributions, taking into consideration the Croatia’s recent experience of EU accession and similarities in terms of species and habitat types with the countries in the region.

Action 20:

Access to genetic resources and sharing of benefits

The Nature Protection Act has provisions for fair and equitable use of research and development finding resulting from the use of genetic resources, and prevents anyone from becoming an owner of genetic material created from genetic material of wildlife taxa. For access to use of genetic material of native wild species in situ, legal and natural persons must obtain permission from the MENP and meet the conditions for access and /or use of the genetic material.

Ratification of Nagoya Protocol in Croatia is expected in 2015, with preparations underway.