This week I was in Split, in Croatia. It had been over a year since the last time I was here, for the Mediterranean Seagrass Workshop 2009. One of the most fun and interesting workshops I have ever been to!

Visiting Croatia is always exciting, Split is a beautiful city and it’s coastline pristine. I was invited to a workshop meant to develop management and monitoring plans for five Croatian Marine Protected Areas (Brijuni, Mlet, Telasçica, Kornati and Lastovo). The workshop involved about 30 participants: MPA managers, national institutions (Ministry of Culture, State Institute for Nature Protection, Sunce Association) and international experts from WWF Mediterranean, University of Perpignan, Fondazione IMC Onlus and the MPA of Tavolara, in Italy. I participated, together with a few other seagrass experts, to help establish a monitoring protocols for Posidonia oceanica meadows within these MPAs.

The MPAs range widely in size and extent of seagrass meadows, hence we worked MPA by MPA in establishing a similar monitoring design but with different spatial replication. The idea is to keep simple protocols that both the MPA staff and volunteers can easily implement. At the same time, it is crucial to gather data that later can be integrated to other monitoring database for the Mediterranean. This is particularly relevant as Croatia may enter the European Union in 2013 and will be required to implement the Water Framework Directive of the EU, which adopts Posidonia as a biological indicator for environmental quality.

Croatia is currently making large investments in MPAs to develop effective management and monitoring plans. The idea is that by this summer, monitoring will start both for fish and P. oceanica meadows and that later next year some socio-economic indicators will be added.

I think that the opportunity to exchange experiences among international MPAs, to discuss with colleagues lessons learned, to acquire information from experts is a valid approach to achieve effective management and conservation targets.

In the next few months, I will continue to work with the MPAs of Brijuni, Mlet, Telasçica, Kornati, and Lastovo and the National Croatian Organisation that give them support, to finalise protocols and to begin Posidonia monitoring in the five MPAs. I am much looking forward to getting to know new underwater areas of the Mediterranean!

Just a final thought: I agree with R.M. Brown who said “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment”. I think this is the perfect quote for many MPAs in the Mediterranean.

Written by Ivan Guala, Fondazione IMC Onlus—International Marine Centre, Italy.

Photographs by Sunce and Ante Žuljević.


ISBW9, Group photo

Len McKenzie

ISBW9, Day 4 (Sirinat MNP)

While Siti and others explored the delights at a local fishing village at Pa Klok, the rest of us visited Koh Pling, Sirinat Marine National Park. It was a chance for us to cool off from the dry season heat.

Located just south of Phuket airport on the north-western tip of Phuket Island, Sirinat Marine National Park covers an area of around 90 square km. After a 50 minute coach ride from Patong (our WSC venue), we arrived at the park and popular Nai Yang Beach. The instructions were that the main seagrass and coral is best seen surrounding Nai Yang Island, a short (1.4 km) walk along the beach to the headland. We navigated our way through the rows of sun lounges and trekked along the beach.

On arrival at Nai Yang Island, it was pleasing to find Thalassia hemprichii and Cymodocea rotundata meadows covering much of the shallow reef flat to the south. Thalassia hemprichii predominated and looked in pretty good condition, although there were very few invertebrates to be seen. It was soon evident that the area is regularly gleaned with many local villagers taking advantage of the low tides. Discarded gill nets and fish traps were also scattered over the intertidal meadow.  The Cymodocea rotundata was not looking so great, with nearly 75% cover of epiphytic algae on the leaves.

We were all a little shocked however, with the condition of the coral reef. The brochures said “the coral reefs present in the bay are some of the most pristine found in Phuket province”, but this was not to be. After clambering over rocks to reach the reef edge, I asked Mike Durako where was the coral reef we came to see, and he said “this is it”. It was a very sad reef. Live coral cover was probably <1%. Much of the coral reef in the area was devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and what appears to be more recent bleaching events (with chronic nutrient inputs discharging from the adjacent resorts). Coral recruitment was nearly non-existent. Paul Erftemejier took great glee in photographing the reef condition so he could use it in his presentations of what a poor reef looks like. It is hoped that this reef which is so important to the subsistence fishery of the area improves in the near future.

With a large northeast monsoon storm buidling in the distance, we thought it best to head back. We trekked back along to beach in time to grab a quick beer and a game of “uno” before our coach ride back to Patong.

Len McKenzie

ISBW9, Day 4 (Pa Klok)

Today, we’ll be doing a photoblog of the field trip to a local fishing village at Pa Klok.

These shrimp were collected from the seagrass bed at Pa Klok.

There’s a small mangrove nursery where Rhizophora apiculata and R. mucronata saplings are growing. The saplings are grown to 1 m height before transplanting.

We found a small patch of Halophila beccarii at Pa Klok! H. beccarii was recently listed as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN Species Red List.

A modified trawling device used by a local fisherman.

Most of the fish caught in this way are juvenile rabbitfish (Siganus sp.)

Removing catch from a fishing trap

Chillin in a seagrass bed

Man meets Jelly

Siti Maryam Yaakub

ISBW9, Day 3

Hello from the land of a thousand smiles! It’s Day 3 here at the World Seagrass Conference 2010 in Phuket, Thailand and it’s been three days of very interesting talks and presentations (and yummy Thai food).

We were really fortunate that the first day of our conference coincided with the Thai festival of Loy Kratong. Throughout the day, delegates were encouraged to create their own flower floats to be released into water bodies as part of the traditional ritual carried out during Loy Kratong. Making the flower float was fun, albeit embarrassing afterwards when I compared my haphazard (I didn’t employ the use of a random number table in the design) arrangement of flowers and leaves to the more intricate designs that were on display. Let’s just say I’ll be keeping my day job…

In the evening, we were treated to a yummy and authentic Thai dinner, followed by some singing and elegant dancing by Anchana and her students — that is until the rest of us joined in! After dinner and dance, it was time to release our flower floats, and what a pretty picture that made with all our floats drifting in the hotel pond. The evening ended with fireworks — a spectacular end to the night.

This afternoon, we’ll be going on a fieldtrip — snorkeling and to a local fishery — so stay tuned for more updates.

Siti Maryam Yaakub

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