Fishermen being fined in disputed Piran Bay but fines not being paid

Koper – Since Slovenia’s implementation of the border arbitration decision in 2018, Slovenian and Croatian fishermen have been fined for fishing in the disputed Bay of Piran, but the fines are being appealed rather than paid, as Croatia refuses to implement the 2017 international arbitration tribunal’s decision to award most of the bay to Slovenia.

Croatian police have so far issued 1,437 decisions for fines to Slovenian fishermen, with another 980 decisions of violations issued by Croatian fisheries inspectors, the Slovenian Agriculture Ministry has told the STA.

In line with a deal with the Slovenian authorities and Slovenian law, Slovenian fishermen do not pay the fines and the state helps then with legal proceedings.

The fishermen have been instructed to hand as soon as possible the decisions they receive from Croatia over allegedly fishing in what Croatia still considers its waters to a lawyer authorised to represent them before Croatian courts.

There are now 1,012 appeals against Croatian police decisions under way at Croatian courts and another 862 proceedings related to inspection decisions, the ministry said.

Slovenian fishermen Zlatko Novogradec, who does not fish across the middle line in the Bay of Piran, says he is not aware of any Slovenian fishermen having paid a fine.

Fishermen Matjaž Radin said the state is providing them with comprehensive legal aid, and would also refund them in case Croatian fishermen damaged their fishing tools.

Slovenian police data shows that since the arbitration award was declared, 7,842 “events” were registered and processed in the Slovenian waters.

Last year alone, there were 1,274 such infringements, which involved 2,083 Croatian vessels, of which 967 vessels of the Croatian law enforcement.

Slovenian police have issued 1,569 fines to Croatians since Slovenia implemented the arbitration award on 1 January 2018, and 366 in 2021.

Croatian media have recently reported that Slovenia and Croatia have now reached agreement that would allow Slovenian fishermen to fish in Croatian waters down to Umag and Croatia’s in Slovenia’s waters all the way up to Koper.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has neither corroborated nor denied the reports, and Slovenian fishermen learnt from it from the media. The parliamentary Foreign Policy Commission is expected to discuss the matter with the ministry’s officials on Friday.