Croatia guards fish stocks

ZAGREB – Croatia is eager to apply the European Union’s common fisheries policy but expects support from Brussels to preserve its sea resources, a senior official said last week. Zagreb started EU membership talks a year ago, hoping to join by 2010. It expects to open talks soon on fisheries, seen as a demanding area as Croatia will need money and time to adjust to EU standards. «We have poorly equipped and outdated ships, no modern storage facilities, wholesale fish markets or fishing ports,» said Ivan Katavic, who heads Zagreb’s EU negotiating team on fisheries. «What we have and bring as dowry into the EU is a well-managed and preserved fish stock with more than 150 commercially important species, and we want to keep it alive,» he told Reuters. That is mostly due to the poorly equipped fishing fleet and restrictive fishing policies of the past. «We’re keen to accept EU fishery rules, but we also want to keep fish stock and our traditional fishery equipment, like small coastal trawlers,» Katavic said. He said Croatia was far behind competitors in the Mediterranean and that Zagreb would need funds to improve industry standards, a considerable portion of which was expected from EU pre-accession funds. Territorial waters The fisheries industry is worried about the implications of joining the wealthy bloc and has urged the government to fully implement a protection zone that would extend Zagreb’s ecological and fisheries jurisdiction beyond territorial waters – a move that would not please Adriatic neighbors Slovenia and Italy. «The zone has economic justification. Our fish stocks could become depleted… if we don’t take care of overfishing. At the same time, we want to avoid any negative implications on EU talks,» Katavic said. He said Zagreb would seek a transitional period to implement certain aspects of EU fisheries policy. «We will also seek such a fishing regime that would enable the sustainability of the fishing industry in the Adriatic,» he said. «I hope Brussels will recognize the need to support such an approach, which would guarantee the survival of our fishing industry in the long term.» To boost its fishing industry, Croatia also wants to raise its annual per capita fish consumption, which is less than 10 kilos. The European Union average is slightly above 22 kilograms, while Spain has yearly consumption of 40 kg per capita and Iceland 90 kg.