Local community helps develop Montenegro’s second marine protected area

In the Adriatic Sea, opposite the coastal town of Petrovac in the Montenegrin municipality of Budva, lies the beautiful islet of Katič. Although made up of several rock formations dominated by conifers, Katič provides habitat for a wide range of biodiversity, including (but not limited to) seagrass beds, rock reefs, and sea caves.

Seagrass meadows Oceanic posidonia, sometimes referred to as the “lungs of the Mediterranean Sea”, are a crucial habitat of great importance for many organisms. They provide the ideal breeding ground for the offspring of many species, increase food availability and act as refuges from predators, making them a key factor in the production of fish stocks.

Oceanic posidonia take 350 years to develop a clone with a radius of 15 meters. These slow growing organisms make them excellent biological indicators that reflect the conditions of their environment. What’s more, Posidonia meadows are on the list of priority habitats according to the European Habitats Directive.

Despite this, these precious and vulnerable ecosystems are under increasing pressure from human activities. Increased urbanization, coastal building, illegal fishing practices and tourism have led to rapid degradation of natural habitats, leading to a gradual decline in the fishing harvest.

To conserve these vulnerable ecosystems without neglecting socio-economic development, serious measures must be taken at the community level. To this end, BirdLife – through our role as a regional implementation team for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) Mediterranean hotspot – has supported the local conservation organization Green Home to engage communities in the process. management of natural resources in the Katič region, and support the creation of a second marine protected area in Montenegro.

Green Home believes that the protection of Montenegro’s rich marine biodiversity is a key requirement for the sustainable development of the country. In addition, compliance with European standards related to environmental preservation issues is essential for the country’s future integration into the European Union. To do this, Green Home has partnered with the Mediterranean Environmental Monitoring Center (MedCEM), which has been working in the Katič region for years, and the Montenegrin Ecologist Society to strengthen the capacities of local actors and raise awareness among the community. community to marine protected area concept. The areas and their importance in maintaining marine life.

The announcement of a Marine Protected Area requires creating a balance between socio-economic development and environmental protection. This may involve banning fishing at specific times of the year in specific areas of the Katič region to give marine life the opportunity to thrive. Convincing fishermen to put limits on their main source of income was a challenge. Therefore, Green Home and their partners have stepped up their efforts to raise awareness among the local population about the benefits of marine conservation, wise management and long-term fishing ban, especially on fish stocks. Soon, fishermen could see the benefits of this course of action.

Katič Marine Protected Area © Mihailo Jovičević

“We should establish a new Marine Protected Area because that is the way to save fish stocks and protect habitats. “

Žarko Mihaljević, a fisherman from the Katič region

They also had to find alternative and environmentally friendly sources of income to support fishermen outside of the fishing season. As the Katič region is rich in biodiversity and a habitat for many birds, ecotourism was the best alternative. Therefore, local stakeholders including tour operators, fishermen and staff of Montenegro Natural Park and local municipality were trained in bird watching tourism activities. In addition, MedCEM has used its experience in promoting snorkeling to help local people develop activities for tourists to enjoy the underwater life in this wonderful place.

To ensure sustainability beyond the duration of the project, Green Home supported the fishermen in the creation of an association to organize their work. The Association of Professional Fishermen of Katič, which consists of eight members, will support and conserve marine life and manage fishing and tourism activities throughout the year. This resulted in the formation of a strong relationship between the project team and the local community.

The success of empowering the local community has opened the door to new opportunities for cooperation. Green Home and their partners have trained local communities on how to network directly with different NGOs and funding agencies, even outside Montenegro. Hopefully this will pave the way for the Fishermen’s Association to receive funds to implement activities other than fishing.

Meanwhile, the Government of Montenegro considers the protection of marine biodiversity as a priority, as defined in the National Biodiversity Strategy with Action Plan and the National Strategy for Sustainable Development. They therefore planned to establish three marine protected areas along the Montenegrin coast, of which the Katič area was one of the proposed sites. “We were lucky enough to implement this project at that time,” says Andrija Krivokapic, project coordinator for Green Home. “The government’s work had enriched our database for different species in the Katič region. “

Due to the close relationship between the project team and the local community of Katič, Green Home and its partners led the negotiations around the boundaries and conservation plan of the Marine Protected Area. Through a public debate, the government shared the proposed areas and presented the management plan to the local community. At first, the fishermen refused to demarcate the zones of marine protected areas because it would negatively affect their livelihoods. After negotiations, the government of Montenegro agreed to modify the limits to align them with the needs of fishermen.

The involvement of the local population in the creation of the marine protected area was a remarkable event in the history of Montenegro, where government institutions discussed their decisions with the local community. This has helped to bridge the gap between local communities and governments – a situation that will have fruitful results in the future.

As a result of all these efforts, September 16e, 2021, the Montenegrin Minister of Ecology, Space and Town Planning proclaimed the creation of the Katič Nature Park, the second marine protected area of ​​Montenegro, measuring more than 2,744 hectares. The country’s first marine protected area was the Platamuni Natural Park, which was declared on April 22.sd, 2021.

Katič Natural Park is managed by the State Institution for the Management of Marine Assets of Montenegro, in accordance with the Law on Nature Protection, which draws up the management plan. As agreed, local communities and other local stakeholders will be involved in the management of this protected area, as they are the ones who know the area best.

“I support the proclamation of a new Marine Protected Area. We should have done it a hundred years ago.

Ilija Armensko, restaurateur in the Katič region

* The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of the French Development Agency, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan and the World Bank. Additional funding was provided by the MAVA Foundation. A fundamental objective is to ensure that civil society is engaged in the conservation of biodiversity.

CEPF is more than just a funder. A dedicated Regional Implementation Team (RIT) (Expert Field Officers) directs funding to the most important areas and even to the smallest organizations; build the capacity of civil society, improve conservation outcomes, strengthen networks and share best practices. In the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot, the RIT is entrusted to BirdLife International and its Partners: LPO (BirdLife France), DOPPS (BirdLife Slovenia) and BPSSS (BirdLife Serbia). More information on www.birdlife.org/cepf-med