Lastovo: Bags of Plastic Collected From Shore, 'Untouched Nature'?

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On Friday 29th September 2017, crew aboard a charter yacht, along with their guests, cleaned 10 large rubbish bags of plastic from the shore of Lastovo. How does this happen and who is accountable?

Fake news, sensationalist story, clickbait… let me throw all of those words out there first and beat some of you to the punch. Every time we write a story about Croatia making it into any number of “Top 10” lists or celebrities visiting, the articles get thousands of hits and are shared faster than a village rumour-mill. We try to limit the number of such articles because we are doing our best not to become a sensationalist site. However, every time we write about topics that matter deeply, like the environment for example – these articles don’t do nearly as well, unless, we are questioning or threatening the status quo, then people normally come running to defend the Beautiful Croatia. Oh, how I wish some of this energy could be put to good use and action rather than a comment-section war…

Anyway, I have written this as a prologue of sorts because I know what kind of reaction this piece is most likely going to elicit. I personally love sharing positive stories, call me a softie but it’s in my nature, I choose to focus on the positive things in life – for which, living in Croatia offers many (just don’t try to open an obrt).

However, there are many things that frustrate me – the paradox between people having such pride in Croatia’s nature and most people living from tourism, compared to the lack of action taken by most to protect this valuable asset is mind-boggling. There are, of course, many incredible humans doing their part, we have written about multiple beach clean-ups and positive actions happening all around the coast. Next weekend there is even a boat trip organised around Zadar by the island movement in a bid to connect islanders and have their voices heard.

But, this is not what I am choosing to focus on today and for good reason. Yesterday my husband who is a captain aboard a charter yacht, sent me photos of a beach clean-up they did in Lastovo.

“After a crazy season, we finally managed to get an anchorage in Prehodišće bay by ourselves – whereas it has been full all season. I told the guests about how beautiful Lastovo is, the purpose of being there is simply for the ‘untouched nature’; however, when we pulled in, I saw that the beach was covered in plastic. It was embarrassing. I took the tender to the beach to clean it and within a matter of minutes, all of the guests from the yacht pitched in. In less than 20-minutes, we had collected 10 large bags of mostly plastic debris.

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This bay is right at the entrance to the Nature Park, for a yacht of our size (27-metres) it costs around 750 kn, it also says that all money is used for the maintenance, care and promotion of Lastovo Nature Park. So, tell me, how is this possible and where is that money going?”

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I have written about this issue before and been abused for writing about this issue – because ‘how dare I show Croatia in a negative light’, but I have no intention of keeping quiet.

On September 12, 2006, Lastovo islands were adopted as a Nature Park by the Croatian Parliament and committed “all Croatian citizens and all visitors, to take special care of this region.” The Lastovo Nature Park contains 44 islands, cliffs, and reefs, it covers an area of almost 200 km2 and a marine area of 143 km2.

This area is one of the most preserved marine areas in the Adriatic. Due to its values and characteristics it represents a vast natural and partly cultivated area of land and the sea showing ecological features of international and national importance, as well as pronounced landscape, educational, cultural, historical, tourist and recreational values. The protection provided is intended to preserve the inherited landscape and cultural values and biological landscape and diversity, including the appertaining sea and submarine area.” (Lastovo Travel)

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Credit: Romulic & Stojcic

‘Untouched nature’, ‘preserved nature park’, these are all words you will find used to describe Lastovo and as a Nature Park, it is right that they charge a fee for entrance to go towards the protection of such a national treasure. 750 kn is no small amount, now times that by hundreds of boats all season and Lastovo should have a decent budget to protect the Nature Park as it says above. Plastic debris and pollution is a worldwide issue and I can understand microplastics washing ashore but the fact that this crew and guests managed to clean 10 large garbage bags of plastic in a matter of minutes, suggests that something is very wrong with the system.

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Credit: Romulic & Stojcic

This is not a great image for Croatia and the care of our Nature Parks, what does it say to international guests? Where is that money going? Where is accountability in the system?

I have emailed the tourist board of Lastovo and look forward to hearing their explanation on the matter. If they are so overwhelmed with the situation that they cannot stay on top of the maintenance of the Nature Park, then surely, we need to put out a call for support and systems need to be improved going into the 2018 season.

Lastovo Nature Park, IS a gorgeous region of the Adriatic which is exactly why we should all be doing everything we can to protect it for generations to come!

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Credit: Romulic & Stojcic

Have you found any similar issues while sailing Croatia? We would love to hear about it, email tash@total-croatia-sailing.com.

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