“Now we have new norms, new taxes, book keeping. We are treated as real companies, whereas we are really only small family trades and we just cannot keep up with all the demands,” he said.
In 1978, when he first took to the sea, fishermen had only compasses to navigate by. Nets were pulled out by hand, a back-breaking process made redundant by modern day winches, but the catch was plenty.
“Today we have electronic and hydraulic equipment, but we catch much less fish than we did 30 years ago. And you need to have an accountant ready every time you go to the sea. So I don’t see any future in this,” he said.
His gross annual revenue amounts to 30,000 euros (US$39,000) at most, he said.
Neighboring Slovenia, which shares a small part of the northern Adriatic, joined the EU in 2004 and has already seen a decline of its fishing.
“It’s going from bad to worse and is quite disastrous now,” said 64-year old Loredano Pugliese, from the port of Izola, speaking in a mixture of Italian, Slovenian and Croatian.
Izola was a former stalwart of Slovenia’s fishing industry, but has gone from almost 400 fishing boats to about 30 in the last decade.
“It’s the European laws, the European-size nets, the size of fish. Europe wants big fish and we only have smaller fish here. Then you have to weigh every fish, to the last ounce, fill in the paperwork. If this keeps up, we’ll need to have a university degree to handle those documents,” Pugliese said.
“This is a small sea and they want us to act as if this was a big sea. In a few years, there will be no fishermen left here and I am afraid that’s what will happen to my Croatian friends, too,” he said.