First International Conference on Islands and Sustainability


19 - 21 April 2010
Brač Island, Croatia


Islands CoverThe First International Conference on Island Sustainability has recently been held on the island of Brac, organised by the Wessex Institute of Technology, UK, and the Hydrographic Institute of the Republic of Croatia.

Croatia, having a rich sea area with over a thousand islands was an ideal location for the event which attracted papers from many different countries.  The Croatian Hydrographic Institute, host of the meeting, is in charge of the most significant projects related to the development of those islands.

Current global socio-economic trends call attention to the endangered conditions of relatively confined environments all over the world.  Many of these regions face problems of depopulation and a lack of adequate infrastructures.  The problems are aggravated in the case of islands which have limited resources and few possibilities of developing different types of supporting infrastructures.

Many islands depend on tourism for their economic survival.  Most of them however cannot provide all the resources required to maintain a large seasonal population and in many cases basic requirements such as water and energy, as well as agricultural produce, need to be imported.

The impact of a large seasonal population increase in the community and the resulting socio-economic factors need to be carefully evaluated, as well as issues related to transportation and communication, all of which should be part of an overall strategy.

Of primary importance in many cases is to ensure all year round economic activities in order to achieve a permanent and completely sustainable use of the island’s potential.

Different islands present a variety of diverse problems and much can be learned by sharing these experiences.  The objective of the conference was to encourage the sustainable development of islands taking into consideration all the specific qualities, aiming to sustain life, to encourage demographic revival through economic development in a manner harmonious with their natural environment and cultural and historic traditions.

 Opening Addresses

The co-chairmen of the conference were Dr Srecko Favro from the Hydrographic Institute of Croatia and Professor Carlos A Brebbia, Director of the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT), UK.

Professor Brebbia opened the meeting by explaining the activities of his institute and the importance of this conference within their programme.  WIT – Professor Brebbia said – is involved in the study of diverse types of hydrologic problems and has done a substantial amount of work for offshore engineering organisations, particularly those involved in the field of energy.  One of the most successful applications of the techniques developed by the Institute is in the field of cathodic protection for ships and offshore structures.  The pioneering work of WIT related to fracture has also found many applications in naval engineering.

More recently, the Institute has initiated work in environmental sciences and ecology, which leads to sustainability studies.  The publishing arm of the Institute, WITPress, produces a substantial number of books on these topics, and now includes amongst its publications the International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning.   These activities – which continue to increase - led to the idea of starting a conference on Island Sustainability with Dr Favro.  Professor Brebbia concluded by thanking the Hydrologic Institute for having hosted the meeting and hoped that this initiative will give rise to further collaboration.

IMG_1811Dr Zvonko Gržetiĉ, Director of the Hydrographic Institute of Croatia welcomed the delegates and explained the type of work carried out at his Institute.  The Institute has developed a large database with electronic charts containing all information about the Adriatic, including Raster and Vector charts for navigation.  In this way their work is unique.  The complete Adriatic marine charts are now in digital form.  This work is important not only for navigation but for problems such as floods, for which a mathematical model has been developed, in collaboration with the Hydrographic Institute of the University of Zagreb.

Some of the most important projects for the Croatian National Government are developing places of refuge for ships in distress and use of small islands.  Study of the strategy for developing nautical tourism in Croatia and all projects related to the Maritime Cadastral Databases is supported by the Hydrological Institute of Croatia (HHI).

The mission of the HHI is to work on hydrology of the Adriatic, producing offshore charts, navigational documents and all other associated supporting information.

Ms Tajana Huzak from the Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, spoke on behalf of the State Society for Islands, on the topic of ‘Sustainable Development of the Croatian Islands’.

The Croatian Islands have three national parks and two nature parks and cover more than 3,000 km2.  The total length of the Croatian coastline is more than 6,000km.  There are in total 78 islands, 525 isles and 641 solitary rocks and reefs, a total of 1,244; 50 of them with permanent settlements including a total of 125,000 inhabitants.  Brac, where this conference took place, is one of the largest and the highest of these islands.

The aim of the meeting is to achieve sustainability; including environmental sustainability and social sustainability while also achieving economic growth.

Depopulation of the island is a major problem.  The number of inhabitants in 1921 was nearly 175,000 while now it is 125,000, although the number of inhabitants is starting to grow.

The islands are protected by the constitution of the Republic and the policy is;

  • Protection of the existing values and preservation of all resources
  • Long-term improvement of living conditions on the islands
  • Demographic and economic progress within sustainable development

The presentation concluded with the following final thought;

The overall local, regional and national politics with its goals and measures cannot be the only guarantee that people will stay and survive on islands – reasons for leaving the islands, especially for young people, are mainly individual and personal, especially today when the challenges of life in towns and cities on the mainland are greater than ever.

Croatian islands, as oases of beauty and heirs of the rich Croatian history and culture, have all the preconditions to be even more beautiful and more organised, to have better prospects and to become more densely populated.  We have all been called to help this happen, and the definition of sustainable development should be taken as a principle for accomplishing this goal in the best possible way.

Dr Srecko Favro, co-chairman of the conference, introduced Mr Ivo Milatic, Mayor of the Municipality of Jelsa on the island of Hvar.  Mr Milavic referred to the importance of the government policies to create the necessary laws to protect the islands.

He organised the visit to the new Croatian Navy School Ship ‘Queen of the Sea’ which shows the importance that is attached to the protections of the coast and the sea.

Mr Milatic stressed the importance of this and similar conferences to achieve sustainable development of the enormous capital represented by the Croatian coast and islands.  It is important to help communities to be vigilant and able to contribute to the protection of their environment with the support of the E.U.

It is also essential to increase the population in the islands to ensure sustainability.  This is now happening on the big islands and it is hoped that the others will grow as well.

 Invited Presentations

The invited presentations from Croatia were as follows,

'Possibilities and limitations in the development of selective forms of tourism in the Croatian archipelago: case study of the Istrian islands'
by M Kovaĉić, Primorska Gorawska County, Croatia

'Croatian Island of Unije – a brief history of disembarkations'
by N Starc, The Institute of Economics Zagreb, Croatia

'Tangled up in Blue - Croatian Islands and their Sustainability'
by N Starc, The Institute of Economics Zagreb, Croatia

'Tourism valorization of lighthouses on Croatian Islands and along the coast'
by VT Opaĉić, University of Zagreb, Croatia

 Conference Topics

The papers in the book were divided into the following sections;

  • Tourism impact and strategies
  • Community issues
  • Changing climate and environment
  • Infrastructure
  • Transport issues

 Visit to 'The Queen of the Sea'

IMG_1817During the morning of the second day the delegates were invited to visit the new training ship of the Croatian Navy ‘Queen of the Sea’ which has just been commissioned.  The ship was specifically ordered to sail to the port of Bol on occasion of the conference.

The Queen of the Sea is 36m long and can accommodate 28 cadets accompanied by four Professors and seven crew members and is yet another indicator of the importance that the government attributes to all activities connected to the protection of the coast and islands.

The talk by Lidija Petriĉ from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Split discussed the attitudes of the island local communities towards sustainable development, today taking as a particular example the case of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar.  Hence this is important to develop the social capital of the island as otherwise any efforts will fail.  

The first step was to understand the local resident’s attitude towards the impacts of tourism on the country.  Stari Grad (ancient Pharos) is one of the oldest European towns and the oldest town on the island of Hvar, founded by the ancient Greeks.  In spite of its ancient roots, the town has neither the resources nor the social capital to develop tourism.  

The focus in the past was the emphasis on the SSS (Sun-Sea–Sand) concept and the consequences of privatisation.  This resulted in low quality tourism and the construction of many apartments and houses.  The local inhabitants do not know how to cope with this although all are in agreement that tourism is very important. 

Tourism nevertheless can be seen as a future agent of change but it is challenged on the grounds of socio-cultural and environmental devastation.

A poll was prepared to find out more about the attitude of the population towards tourism. Overall results prove that tourism for the most part favorably impacts communities economy and the environment, whereas inputs are mostly viewed as negative.   One of the surprising results of the research is that age, gender, education, length of residence and employment in town did not significantly affect resultant perceptions within the sample.

 Social Events and Excursions

IMG_1839The conference gave the delegates ample opportunities for interaction during coffee breaks, at the complimentary lunches and the social occasions.  The dinner took place in a typical taverna overlooking the sea in the town of Bol.  The fare consisted of local specialties, excellent fish and local wines in a friendly environment.

A special short excursion was arranged at the end of the second day sessions to visit local sites of cultural and historical importance in the neighbourhood of Bol, which is a beautiful village with unique beaches and excellent restaurants.   It has a famous Dominican Monastery where the church contains a painting by Tiepolo.

IMG_1843newDuring the last day of the conference the delegates were taken for an excursion in the vessel of the Hydrographic Institute, the Pellaguzza, that has been involved with the charting of the whole Dalmatian Archipelago as well as the extensive shoreline of Croatia.  The excursion took them to the beautiful town of Hvar which contains important buildings from the Venetian time, including an arsenal for the repair of the boats, a large church and a Loggia now forming part of a luxury hotel.  The town is dominated by a fortress and part of the old walls surrounding it are still in excellent condition.  Hvar is also an excellent port now used by pleasure boats and some small cruisers.  The delegates finally partook in a substantial lunch on board where the main course was lamb casserole cooked in the local style.

The substantial number of social functions at the conference helped to cement contacts made by the delegates at the meeting.

 Publication of Papers

The proceedings of Island Sustainability, 304pp (Print ISBN: 978-1-84564-434-5; Online ISSN: 1743-3541) are available from WIT Press priced at £116/US$232/€162. Orders can be placed online at or by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone: +44 (0) 238 029 3223 or fax: +44 (0) 238 029 2853.

Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary as Volume 130 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (ISSN: 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at