Public Institution Priority Actions Programme/Regional Activity Centre of the Mediterranean Action Plan in Split


Croatian coastal zone

By its position, the Republic of Croatia belongs to the central European, Adriatic-Mediterranean and Panonian-Danubian group of countries. It covers an area of 87,677 km², of which 56,610 km² are land, and 31,067 km² coastal sea, while the surface area of the Adriatic watershed is 22,134 km².
The coastal region of Croatia is an Adriatic area showing all phenomena typical of a large part of the Mediterranean, especially of its European shores. Developed relief with mountain chains in the immediate vicinity of the coastline, sometimes at just 10-odd metres, and numerous islands (1,246), interchanges with flat stretches.
Geographically, the islands in Croatia could be classified as proper islands, rocks (top above the water), and ridges (top below the water). There are two large peninsulas, Istria and Pelješac. Generally, the coast is rocky with frequent pebble drifts, while sand beaches are rather less common. The total length of the coastline is 5,835 km, of which 1,777 km belong to the coast of the mainland, and 4,058 km to the island coasts, which makes the Croatian coast the most indented in the Mediterranean.
The principal natural feature is the hilly karstic base. The mountainous coastal belt often keeps the dominant influence of the sea within just several kilometres inland. The karstic base lacks any significant earth layers, and the vegetation cover is relatively scarce, except in some river valleys and karstic fields. The soils are shallow and skeletal (rendzinas, black and eroded brown soils on limestone and dolomite bases). Deeper soils (red) can be found only locally.
Generally, the climate is characterised by dry and hot summers, and mild and rainy winters, and a high number of sunny and clear days. Such climatic conditions are favourable for vegetation (cooler and rainier areas in the northern Adriatic, and the warmer areas in the south, variety of microclimates,etc.).
Almost all rivers flowing into the Adriatic Sea, as well as other surface (lakes) and ground waters are of such quality that they can be used for water supply, i.e. represent potential sources of drinking water. Surface waters are also used for hydro-energy purposes. Apart from Neretva, all rivers are fast and short, with great variation of flow. Great quantities of rainfall reach deep layers. A part of those waters reappears on the surface in the form of springs in karstic fields only to disappear again under ground through karstic sink holes (the longest of those water courses are the rivers Lika and Gacka). However, most of the ground waters flow under ground directly into the sea, sometimes under the sea surface creating submarine sources. Local ground waters accumulate in a number of islands, but during the dry period, sea water intrusion often occurs due to over-exploitation.
Along most of the Croatian coast, the coastal sea is separated from the open waters by a series of islands. The Adriatic is a relatively shallow sea, with average depth of 239 m, it is warm and has a high salinity. Even on the places where it is somewhat deeper near the shore it is separated from the open sea by a submarine barrier which does not affect the passage of even the largest ships, but influences the water circulation. Depending on the season, sea currents, winds and vicinity of the shore, the sea temperature varies throughout the year in both horizontal and vertical directions (in winter, in the north-western part near the coast the sea temperature is 8°C, and in the south-eastern 16°C), the average salinity is 38.3‰, slightly growing towards the south. Near shore the salinity is lower due to fresh water inflow from the land. The highest degree of transparency is found in the South-Adriatic Pit (56m), while along the coast the average value is of 20 m, decreasing towards the north. The sea currents arrive from the Ionian Sea and run along the eastern coast towards north-west. Since the coast is very developed, with numerous bays, islands, sea passages and canals, there are numerous and considerable deviations, as well as local diversions from this general direction. The exchange of waters of the Adriatic Sea is slow.
One of the most important features of the coastal and island region is the biological and landscape diversity, reflected in numerous plant and animal species, their communities and habitats, as well as in a high percentage of endemic species that is due to the geographic position, mild Mediterranean climate, and expressly karstic relief, on predominantly calcareous base. Parts of the coast and the sea are protected by the Law on the Protection of Nature. In
the coastal region, there are more than 100 protected objects selected and classified in 8 protection categories. The largest part of the protected surface regard the national parks and parks of nature the structure of which illustrates well the wealth and great diversity of the nature in Croatia.
According to the first results of the 2011 census, Croatia has population of 4,290,612 people. The administrative and territorial constitution of Croatia is based on counties, municipalities and towns. Seven coastal counties, i.e. those that include segments of coast, account for little less than 44% of the total surface area of the country (24,696 km²), with approx. 33% of people (1,413,328). Heterogeneous by spatial reach and relief, some counties, like the County of Dubrovnik-Neretva, have a markedly coastal-insular character, one is almost entirely situated on a peninsula (County of Istria), most of them have vast hinterland, while the County of Lika-Senj has a markedly continental character with little developed coast, but is a highly important link between the northern and southern parts of Croatia.
The distribution of towns by size shows the existence of two strong regional centres, Split and Rijeka, and relatively few mediumsize towns. Although the Croatian coast of the Adriatic has a long and rich urban tradition, its urbanisation was somewhat belated, due to various historic and political reasons. The recent decades brought a strong litoralisation trend, stimulated especially by the construction of tourist complexes and entire settlements composed of secondary homes along the coast.
Accordingly, we can expect problems relevant to the protection of the environment, especially of its natural and man-made values, as well as problems relevant to urban expansion, and urban and other infrastructure.


The Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC) was established by the Parties to the Barcelona Convention in 1980 in Split to assist Mediterranean countries in key aspects of the implementation of the Mediterranean Action Plan. Its original mandate was broad in scope but, in the light of the growing environmental challenges, the focus of PAP/RAC’s operations was subsequently repositioned to respond to the need for the sustainable development of the Mediterranean’s coastal areas.
PAP/RAC delivered its mandate through both local actions within Mediterranean countries, through training and capacity building, and through the macro-scale development of methodologies and policy. In particular PAP/RAC led the preparation and agreement of the ICZM Protocol that is now the major driving force for ICZM activity in the Mediterranean.
Under its current mandate, approved in 2009, PAP/RAC’s mission is to provide assistance to Mediterranean countries in the implementation of Article 4 of the Barcelona Convention, meeting their obligations under the ICZM Protocol and implement the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD), 2005, and by carrying out, in particular, the tasks assigned to it in Article 32 of the ICZM Protocol.
The principal activity of PAP/RAC is Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in the Mediterranean. ICZM is recognised as the way forward for the sustainable development of coastal zones since the 1992 Rio Conference (the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) and is characterised by a distinctive integrated approach to providing solutions to the complex environmental, social, economic and institutional problems of the coastal zones.
PAP/RAC’s activities are focused on assisting countries in the Mediterranean region in strengthening their capacities to facilitate the sustainable development of coastal zones. Also, it works on assisting countries in the implementation of demonstration coastal management projects at the local level. Above all, PAP/RAC is active in developing regional co-operation in the field of capacity building and awareness-raising on the importance of preserving coastal areas, mainly through the organisation of international training, education and awareness-raising activities, networking, publications and the dissemination of information.
Finally, PAP/RAC is the international champion for the Mediterranean on coastal issues, and a well-respected organisation globally in developing ICZM related methodologies and tools.
PAP/RAC is recognised globally as a centre of excellence - a reputation built on more than 30 years of solid and innovative achievement in the field. In the first twenty years of its existence from 1980, PAP/RAC established itself as an effective and efficient force as ICZM became a major tool in the implementation of sustainable development in the Mediterranean. At the local level PAP/RAC initiated Coastal Area Management Programs (CAMPs) in Croatia, Greece, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, Albania, Algeria, Morocco, Israel, Malta, Lebanon and Slovenia – delivering integrated sustainable development solutions in partnership with national authorities and local communities. Local actions through the recognised CAMP Programme continue with new initiatives in Spain, Montenegro and France.
By the Millennium PAP/RAC had become an internationally recognised centre in the development of ICZM. This is reflected in two landmark publications: the first, “For a Sound Coastal Management in the Mediterranean” and the second, a “White Paper: Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean”.
Most notably however is the emergence and implementation of the “ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean”. Despite the geographical and political complexity of the Mediterranean region, the Protocol was adopted in January 2008 and came into force in March 2011 a record time for such an agreement - thus becoming the first supra-national legal document of its kind in the world. Formal ratifications (six) to date include the EU. Based on this ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean, other regional seas across the world including the Western Indian Ocean, the Baltic and the Black Sea are now developing similar ICZM legal documents advised by PAP/RAC.
PAP/RAC underpins the development of ICZM through institutional strengthening, training and awareness-raising, and through conferences and courses. The distance learning MedOpen training programme for example - the only one of its kind - assists decision makers (at the local, national, regional, and international level), policy advisors, project managers, staff and experts in building capacities for coastal management.
One of the further tools created by PAP/RAC to encourage and facilitate the Protocol ratification is Coast Day, launched in 2007. Coast Day is a unique event in the Mediterranean – promoting the value of the coast and calling for an active engagement by all sectors of society to preserve it. Following the growing international enthusiasm for the celebration of the Coast Day, UNEP has now recognised 25 September as the Mediterranean Coast Day.