WITH a coastline on the Adriatic that stretches for 1,100 miles and with 1,250 islands, islets and sea rocks, Croatia has a long tradition of fishing that goes back to the start of written history.

Yet is a very modern problem which is holding up the development of Croatia’s fishing fleet – bureaucracy. Nor is that EU bureaucracy but a huge hangover from the old days of centralised Communist control.

Now a unique cooperation between the fishers of Croatia and the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA) is proving fruitful in helping Croatian masters and fleet owners to modernise their approach to this vital industry.

It all began last year when Mike Park, chief executive of the SWFPA, was asked to look into the problem by Ian Duncan, Conservative MEP for Scotland, and Ruza Tomasic, a Croatian MEP who was once the body double for actress Gillian Anderson in the X Files.


It did not take long for Park to spot the problem: Croatia has no history of fishermen’s federations or of any real interaction between legislators and the industry, while Scotland has a long history of self-representation and industry governance.

He recommended that Scottish fishing industry representatives should work with their Croatian counterparts to help form similar representative trade bodies in Croatia.

He said: “The industry is suffering from what I would class as over-bureaucracy. It’s still a post-Communist regime with representation through the chambers that are run by the old Communists, so it’s still the regime that has not modernised.

“The fishers themselves are very good workers, but some of the young people are suffering from the high youth unemployment rate that they have had for some years.

“The industry just doesn’t do what we do, like directly lobbying the European Parliament on the many issues in the Adriatic and Mediterranean.”

Park’s pledge to assist his fellow fishers in Croatia has seen him go to the country to try and change minds – he was there just a few weeks ago, and it was a difficult task as participants were still playing the blame game.

His most recent thought is that Croatia’s youth might well want to come to Scotland where there is an acute shortage of candidates for what is a dangerous and dirty job.

He added: “But we will not know what will happen post Brexit – will there still be free movement of people between Croatia and Scotland? We just don’t know.”

Ruza Tomasic is now hopeful that Park’s work can be extended to all the Croatian fishing industry.

She said: “For Croatia, fishing is very important activity with a tradition and cultural heritage. Coastal and island fishing constitutes a traditional form of fishing, a way of life for many Croatians and a significant source of livelihood, particularly in areas which depend on coastal fishing and which require special measures and support to facilitate growth and development.”

“I hope that the Croatian Fishing industry can work with its counterparts in Scotland to improve representation for fishermen.”

In an independent Scotland in the EU or Efta, Croatian fishing workers would be welcome here. Will it ever happen?