The Waters of Western Istria

A Conservation Area Significant for Birds, Species and Habitat Types

A Conservation Area Significant for Species and Habitat Types

The waters of western Istria stretch from the small town of Vrsar all the way to Cape Sv. Stipan beneath the village of Šišan. The 76,000 ha area represents almost the entirety of the marine part of the western coast of Istria and includes two priority habitat types and one marine mammal priority species under the Habitats Directive. Priority habitats are sandbanks covered by seawater at all times and submerged or partially submerged sea caves, and the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is a priority species. The first habitat type is characterised by great biodiversity. In its surface layer, numerous bivalve molluscs, bristle worms, sponges, amphipods, sea urchins and starfish can be seen, and lesser Neptune grass (Cymodocea nodosa) is also common. Certain subtypes of this habitat are rich in fish stocks and thus represent important fishing areas. Unfortunately, such areas are often used as beaches and suffer high human impact, especially in summer when the risk of pollution increases. The second type of habitat is widespread throughout the Adriatic due to the karst character of the Croatian coast. The main feature of sea caves is the sudden reduction in the amount of sunlight and thus the animal and plant life there significantly differs from other habitats. Due to less sunlight, a small number of algae resides there, and in the complete darkness of the cave we find only sponges, moss animals, crustaceans and similar organisms for which sunlight is not a necessary factor for survival.

An Underwater Cave

A cave was found in the undersea world of Kamenjak, in the area of Kolombarica Cove, which can only be accessed by diving. In addition to having an important biological role, it is also a very attractive diving site for anyone who decides to explore it.

The Bottlenose Dolphin

The bottlenose dolphin is a marine mammal that has been identified as a priority species for protection under the Natura 2000 network. The waters of western Istria are one of six important sites for the growth, development and reproduction of the bottlenose dolphin in Croatia. This species is endangered because its population is affected by pollution, incidental catches in fishing nets, deliberate killing, habitat degradation and noise. 

It is therefore important to protect it to maintain the trend of increase in its population. In cooperation with the Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation, the Kamenjak Public Institution conducted a survey on the numerical status of the bottlenose dolphin in southern Istria. 

The results obtained point to 215 individuals in the waters of western Istria. In addition to the protection of the species itself, it is precisely the protection of habitats through Natura 2000 sites that can make a significant contribution to the conservation of this species and enable future generations to enjoy the beautiful scenes of these lovely and intelligent creatures.

The World of Birds

A Conservation Area Significant for Birds

Due to its location, Kamenjak is extremely important for a large number of bird species. This peninsula, dipped like a finger in the sea, provides them with a resting place on their migratory route, a food source, shelter, as well as a place for nesting and wintering.

Part of the municipality of Medulin is covered by the waters of western Istria, a Natura 2000 ecological network site significant for the conservation of birds. The target species are the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), the black-throated loon (Gavia arctica), the red-throated loon (Gavia stellata), the European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii), the common tern (Sterna hirundo) and the Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis). In order to conserve these bird species, it is necessary to conserve habitats suitable for wintering and maintaining nesting populations. The areas managed by the Kamenjak Public Institution are rich in such habitats. 

The seashore, rocky islets, fragrant Mediterranean garrigues and grasslands are ecologically valuable areas and as such we must maintain a favourable conservation status for them in order to conserve birds as well, of which as many as 152 species have been recorded in the Kamenjak area.