What has the Blue World Institute achieved over the years?
Considering that the organisation was only established in 1999, we have moved forward quite a lot. When I first started it was a small seasonal organisation with 2-3 persons working on the boat, dealing with the research and local education. In 2003 we established the first marine education centre in Croatia, and this changed the perception of the project. With this focal point the BWI became something more tangible and concrete, not only for the people working there but also the local community. Now we have 15 full-time employees and some additional seasonal assistants.
From a national perspective the work of the BWI has led to greater consciousness of the presence of dolphins, turtles and other large marine vertebrates, and has led to the definition of 6 Natura 2000 sites within Croatia for the protection of the bottlenose dolphins.
From an international-regional perspective many of us from the BWI work with institutions and universities in the region to develop projects, train staff, further conservation aims. One such example is the Horizon 2020 COST networking action Advancing Marine Conservation in the European and Contiguous Seas (MarCons).
What are the future plans for the Blue World Institute ?
While the next major project is to develop the new education centre in Mali Lošinj, we are always interested in new ideas for conservation, while continuing to maintain high levels of research and fair policy development. At one point we were considering how to develop a University of the Islands, but the development of the new education centre has taken a long-time and so, until that is finished, most other plans are on hold.
How are the Blue World Institute trying to make a difference with protecting the marine environment?
The education aspect of our work continues to be the most important in effecting change in human behaviour towards the dolphins, but the marine environment more generally. On the whole we can see that there is a major change to how both locals and visitors view the role of BWI and the presence of the dolphins in the region. As we say, education, education and more education.