The beautiful coast of Istria is an extremely popular destination for holidaymakers: during the summer and on weekends, its waters are teeming with recreational vessels. This is a great economic resource for the local community, but it could have also some unexpected downsides.
For the 80 full-time fishers operating on the 42 km of Slovenia’s coast covered by the Istria FLAG, such an intensive presence of recreational vessels creates a potential interference in their fishing activities, and there is the added problem of waste ending up at sea due to the significant presence of tourism.
These issues prompted a local fishing company to set up a project, FISHEKO, applying for European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) support through the Istria Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG), to tackle the insufficient space for both fishing and recreational activities, and the marine litter problem.
The FISHEKO project, covering the whole coastline of Slovenia, gives local fishers communication training and hires them to carry out an awareness-raising campaign against single-use plastics in marine activities.
The company designed and implemented five training sessions for almost 30 local fishers free of charge. This training not only focused on this specific initiative, but also included several themes that could help the fishers to diversify their own activities, such as touristic boat trips. During the training, the problem of plastic and microplastic in the marine environment was explained, along with how they impact fishers and the general public.
Once the fishers completed the training, the same local company offered to pay them (for their crew and vessel maintenance) for each day they carried out awareness-raising activities instead of fishing. On these days, any fishers wanting to, could visit anchored vessels at the ports and explain to people about the environmental harm derived from single-use plastics. Then, the fishers provided these people with a biodegradable package of utensils, such as forks, knives and plates. The fishers were free to choose the timing and selected days in the months when the area is most crowded, thus reducing the fisheries pressure on the local area during these periods.
While the total value of the fisheries catch is a small fraction of national GDP, the fishing sector is nonetheless very important for the local economy and the preservation of workplaces, culture, traditions and local identity:
Keeping fisheries activities alive in Istria is quite challenging, and so is finding new diversification opportunities for fishers. FISHEKO offers us both things. People are getting to know more about us and our profession. We can also be useful by helping to defend our way of life and keeping oceans free from plastics.
Says Matjaž Radin, a fisher participating in the project.
In 2020, the first year implementing this project, 15 vessels were involved in the campaign. Over this year and the next, it is expected that the project will be as successful. Fishers have increased their awareness about this problem and became more proactive. They have become authoritative voices on this issue and they now receive invitations from other local stakeholders, such as high schools, to give talks to local students. The support from the EMFF has helped them to diversify, increase skills and modernize their trade while preserving their identity.
Did you like this story?
Then also check out the July edition of Euronews Ocean episode “Working conditions in fisheries and aquaculture”
Keep informed about the project
Website: Istria FLAG
Social media: https://www.facebook.com/fisheko.si/
- Publication date
- 27 July 2021
- Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries