From 14 to 18 October, 2014 the project team and the partners’ representatives from BSPB and "Black Sea Salinas" Ltd. had an experience exchange working trip with other LIFE projects in Slovenia. Main emphasis was the visit of the famous salt pans Sečoveljske soline. The trip was organized by BSPB.
The production of salt is the oldest economic activity along the Adriatic coast. Salt trade was the most important part that tended to the development of the entire region for centuries. At the beginning of the 20th century the whole Slovenian coast - less than 50 km in length - was covered with salt pans, but today there are only few of them. In the largest one called Sečoveljske soline - an area about 850 ha at the mouth of the river Dragonya in Piran Bay, in 1989 the municipality of the town Piran whose mayor is now cheerful Ghanaian Dr. Bosman, declared this place as Natural Park and one of the most beautiful places on the Slovenian coast.
In the northern Mediterranean Salinas exist rich biodiversity that is in unique harmony with millennial salt production activity. During the centuries (the first written evidence of salt production here are from the 13th century) salt pans developed a unique technology for today's famous worldwide Piran salt, one of the wonders of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which Slovenia is proud of.
Today in the salt pans are produced up to 7,000 tons of salt a year, but in 2014 there was no production because of the extreme rainfall - more than 2 times the average annual rate for the area. However, thanks to a successful business, marketing and tourism product saltpans enjoy enviable interest. The area is visited annually by thousands of tourists. A production in a variety of culinary, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, containers for salt storage, souvenirs and publications is exported in 23 countries around the world.
Today the Sečovlje saltpans are prosperous enterprise not only because is preserved traditional salt production, but also because of harmonic coexistence with rich biodiversity. There is real natural treasure of unique flora and fauna and it’s classified as one of the most important natural heritage sites in Slovenia. By abandoning a part of salt production ponds were created specific environmental conditions that may be inhabited only by high specialized organisms. They include a number of plant species (haplofiti) that grow only in salty soils, and among animals are some rare Mediterranean species such as the Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus), the smallest mammal in the world, the Italian wall lizard (Lacerta sicula) and a small bat (Myotis blythii), which is not found elsewhere in Slovenia. There are also some rare species of shrimp, mollusks, fish, etc. But the greatest value of the salt pans are the birds. Salt pans are home for many species where they find ideal conditions for living.
In the area can be observed over 200 different species of birds, 80 of them nest permanently or periodically. In spring and autumn flocks of migratory birds stop near Sečovlje, a large number of birds wintering here - gulls, ducks, geese, shorebirds and other species. The saltpans are also protected by the Ramsar Convention as a wetland and waterfowl habitat of international importance. In the framework of the park are separated areas with strict protection, which prohibit any action and intervention in flora and fauna.
Sečovlje Salina Nature Park has become a major tourist attraction on the Slovenian coast. Buildings in the area are a valuable example of cultural heritage as a technical and architectural elements. Part of the old salt houses are restored and transformed into a museum, recreating the traditional way of life, customs and daily labor - right here on the dikes workers lived with their entire families.
The entire tourist product is a complex of traditional forms of the typical Adriatic coast tourism - old and cozy family houses buried in evergreen trees and shrubs give the Mediterranean its unadulterated warmth. Numerous tourist routes - educational, ornithological, bike, horse and spa satisfy the interests of all visitors and enable them to have stay of full value.
Sečovlje Salina saltpans are a successful model for protected areas management with preservation of traditional cultural and production aspects of salt production. This place is an example of the integration of economic and financial interests in environmental protection. They are a great visual confirmation of the modern understanding that nature conservation is only possible through deep awareness of its importance and implication of its interests in the conservation activities.