Trout center in Otočac to breed indigenous crawfish

Oct 21, 2011

photo: undp croatia

UNDP-backed program aims to restore native crawfish varieties in Croatia's Lika region 

With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an innovative center in Otočac that has already worked to restore native varieties of trout to the Gacka River will expand into breeding and restocking the region's karstic rivers with indigenous varieties of crawfish. An agreement worth HRK 158,000 was signed today in Otočac by Denis Lončar, Director of the Croatian Centre for Indigenous Species of Fish and Crawfish in Karstic Waters in Otočac, and Louisa Vinton, UNDP Resident Representative in Croatia. UNDP is providing HRK 100,000 towards the program, funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while the Center is contributing HRK 58,000.

"Restoring native species is not just good for the environment," said Vinton. "It also helps protect the image of unspoiled nature that should bring more tourists to the Gacka River and surrounding region."

The new funding will allow the Centre to obtain the necessary equipment for the breeding and repopulation of noble and white-clawed crawfish. This includes a microscope for the hatchery laboratory, tools for analysis of water and pools of different sizes, medicine and ultraviolet light for sterilization of the work space. The agreement also covers the costs of modifying existing pools into experimental ponds, as well as expenses for a three-day study trip for four persons to a crustacean farm in Germany.

"By signing this agreement with UNDP, the Centre is fulfilling one of its important goals," said Lončar. "We experimented successfully with the breeding of crawfish, but we lacked the equipment we needed for further breeding and couldn't start a regular yearly breeding cycle. Thanks to the UNDP funds we will obtain the equipment and expert training that is needed for successful breeding of crawfish. This will contribute to the preservation, improving the conditions and enlarging the population in the natural habitat of indigenous European species Astacus astacus and Austropotamobius pallipes."

Croatia is one of the few European countries which is inhabited by nearly all types of European crawfish from the Astacidae family, which covers fresh-water crawfish native to Europe and North America. The Lika region is home to both the noble crawfish (Astacus astacus) and the white-clawed crawfish (Austropotamobius pallipes). Both are deemed rare and endangered species and enjoy legal protection.

The Croatian Centre for Indigenous Species of Fish and Crawfish in Karstic Waters in Otočac was founded in 2006 by the City of Otočac, the Croatian Chamber of Economy, the Ruđer Bošković Institute and Gacka Ltd. The Center conducts a variety of activities, including research on indigenous karst river fish and crustaceans, breeding of brown trout fry and crustaceans for stocking of the Gacka and other karst rivers in Croatia, preparing new researching projects and programs, and creating trademarks.

With earlier funding from The Coca-Cola Company, UNDP has already worked with the Center to open a new multimedia facility in 2009 to educate visitors about the Gacka River, its fish and other wildlife, and the importance of water as a natural resource. The Center, located at a large natural spring outside Otočac, has become a popular tourist attraction and in 2011 welcomed more than 2,000 visitors. The Gacka River is famous for its trout and is one of the top trout-fishing locations in the world.