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Crafting the sea. New directions towards a balanced relationship between societies and their environment

Crafting the sea is a 15-month multidisciplinary innovative project aimed at identifying local knowledge for monitoring climate change, identifying biodiversity, mitigating risks and promoting a more balanced relationship between humans and nature. To this end, the project focuses on the marine life of the Rovinj archipelago, a NATURA2000 protected area in Croatia. The first phase of the project, which ran from May to October, concentrated on identification and research and included a 3-day workshop on 19-21 October, on the nexus between intangible cultural heritage and sustainable human-nature relationships.

The project is led by Ecomuseum Batana, a community-led organisation based in Rovinj, dedicated to the safeguarding of maritime heritage, enlisted in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Register of Good Safeguarding Practices for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage of the world since 2016. It evaluates, protects, interprets, recreates, presents and communicates tangible and intangible maritime heritage through its varied research programmes based on knowledge, cultural heritage and dialogue, inclusion, innovation, its interdisciplinary approach and use of multimedia assets. It further actively reinforces the cultural identity and uniqueness of Rovinj as a good place to live for all its residents and a unique destination for visitors. Ecomuseum Batana’s primary mission is to empower local communities by protecting their cultural and natural resources.

Developed in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Crafting the sea” project seeks to employ the local knowledge of the marine life (NATURA2000 protected area) of Rovinj’s archipelago, which represents intangible cultural heritage. The long-term goal of the project is to raise awareness on the importance of the marine biodiversity and the threats of climate change, promoting more responsible and sustainable behaviours.

To achieve these goals, the project aims to analyse the archive on marine life at the Centre for Marine Research in Rovinj; to develop participatory tools for monitoring and evaluating climate change and biodiversity; and to empower and educate children and youth to understand, acknowledge and promote marine biodiversity as a source of life. In line with these objectives, a number of steps and set activities were formulated.

The first step consisted of analysing and inventorying the 100-year old archive of the Centre for Marine Research - Institute Ruđer Bošković, and comparing it with the data collected through a participative inventorying process on local knowledge of biodiversity, marine geography, meteorology and fishing techniques.

A total of more than 200 scientific articles, published from 1890 onwards, were reviewed. Key information was recorded from each (article title, authors, year of publication, field of research, list of species and abundance of species) in tabular format, to easily find the desired material in the later research process. The aim is to familiarise the public with native species, to make them aware of their immediate natural wealth and to highlight the Centre for Marine Research for their lengthy efforts.

The following phase includes the systematisation of the acquired information and the development of a digital tool to monitor different indicators related to climate change and biodiversity. The third phase will be dedicated to the production and distribution of a digital education kit on climate change and marine life, aimed at elementary school children (age 7-14). Teachers will also be encouraged to include the provided resources in the nature/ biology and heritage classes. In the final stage, photo documentation will be exhibited to raise awareness, promote the rich heritage of the Rovinj archipelago and present the possibilities offered by intersectoral collaboration in intangible and natural heritage preservation.

On 19-21 October, the first project results were conveyed through a public presentation by Tamara Nikolić Đerić (senior curator and cultural anthropologist and project manager, Ecomuseum House of Batana), and Valentina Lapiccirella Zingari (anthropologist and UNESCO trainer for the Implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage) on the implementation of the UNESCO 2003 Convention and participatory-community based inventorying.

The workshop highlighted the differences between scientific/ethnographic research and research aimed at developing an inventory with the aim of safeguarding heritage. As reflected through the analysis of the central role of communities in protecting the cultural heritage, the ocean was recognised as a living heritage when lived and governed by artisans.

The second part of the workshop presented the inventory process such as identifying and organising sources (interviews and oral testimonies, observation notes, studying archival and historical records owned by communities), data collection and regular sharing of results. The workshop included a demonstration of an interview with a local expert and a presentation by Marine conservation biologist Luca Privileggio on research conducted at the Centre for Marine Research-Ruđer Bošković Institute as part of the “Crafting the sea” project.

The workshop was attended by a number of stakeholders such as: Vice Mayor of Rovinj, David Modrušan; President of the Association House of Batana and Historian, Marino Budicin; Director of the Centre for Marine Research Institute Ruđer Bošković, Martin Andreas Pfannkuchen; Professor at University of Pula, Paolo Paliaga; along with secondary school students, who will continue to work on inventorying local knowledge with members of the Association.

The workshop dedicated to the participative inventorying of local traditional knowledge was a successful experiment that saw diverse stakeholders, namely fishermen, local government representatives, marine scientists, teachers, students, historians and others,” said Dr Tamara Nikolić Đerić, project manager, reflecting on the success of the workshop. “All joined forces in a sincere effort to protect our sea by respecting it and by respecting each other.

“Crafting the sea” is part of the SEA BEYOND project, a joint initiative developed by UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and Prada Group, on ocean sustainability education programme. The project is implemented by the Croatian Ecomuseum “House of Batana,” in partnership with the Centre for Marine Research - Institute ‘Ruđer Bošković’, with the financial support of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe.