Call received by Green Phone puts the wheels in motion for the protection of Rakov potok

Green Istria Green Phone service received numerous calls about the endangerment of aquatic habitats in Istria. The most recent example is the devastation of Rakov potok (Crab Creek) in Cerovlje Municipality. As is evident from its name, this creek is the habitat of a multitude of endangered native river crabs that are protected by law (NN 70/05) and have been included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as well as Appendix III of the Bern Convention.

The locals complained about the methods used by Hrvatske vode (legal entity for water management) in the regulation and restoration of the creek: creek channelling, utilisation of inappropriate mowing techniques and the logging of river trees. The goal of these works is to create effective flood protection, but this way the natural creek will be transformed into a regular channel. The methods used by Hrvatske vode in water course management are environmentally unacceptable.

We asked Dr Sc Ivana Maguire from the Department of Zoology of the Faculty of Science in Zagreb for her opinion and she agreed that regulating water courses would drastically decrease the population of river crabs and the number of other aquatic habitats. Coastal vegetation is paramount because crabs prefer shaded habitats, since the shade keeps the water temperature in check, which in turn maintains the optimum level of oxygen necessary for their survival. Dr Maguire also stated one very interesting fact, namely that recent research has shown that Istria is home to the most genetically diverse crayfish.

We brought this case to the attention of the Inspectorate for Nature Protection. They responded swiftly and made an on-site visit with the authorized person of the Mirna-Dragonja Water Management Branch Office (VGI) and a subsequent visit with the representatives of the Public Institution (JU) Natura Histrica.

We also established a liaison between the Inspectorate for Nature Protection, Department of Biology of the Faculty of Science, and the State Institute for Nature Protection in Zagreb in order to collect in-depth data on the habitat in question as well as the species of crab found at the site.
Based on the determined microlocations and all the relevant collected data, the Inspectorate for Nature Protection issued an order to VGI-Mirna-Dragonja, Buzet for the implementation of interim measures for nature protection based on the expert opinion of the State Institute for Nature Protection.

A notification was also sent to the County Water Management Inspectorate. The inspector handling the case believes that comprehensive and multidisciplinary researches should be conducted that would result in the implementation of permanent measures for the protection of the habitat of the aforementioned species, but also for the nature protection in the area of influence.

We organised a press conference about the topic that featured the representative of Natura Histrica Mr Roberto Stelko who has been studying bird habitats for years and has borne witness to the harmful methods that endanger those habitats, especially the ones located at the mouth of the Mirna river that are currently undergoing the procedure of declaration of an ornithological reserve. Mr Stelko confirmed that the excessive cutting of reed alongside the water courses is responsible for the decrease in bird population at the nesting sites. Stelko stressed that reed warblers that nest in the reeds are the most endangered bird species.

A Green Phone supervisor participated in the presentation of the "Mirna River Basin Management Plan" project where she pointed out the all the mistakes Hrvatske vode had made and their utilisation of inappropriate methods and also raised the issue of river crab endangerment in front of all the other participants (representatives of Hrvatske vode, the Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection, public institutions, the State Institute for Nature Protection...)

This was undoubtedly a true example of a successfully resolved issue where the Green Phone acted as the driving force and liaison between citizens, inspectorates, experts, media and the general public!