The Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries was founded in 1930 as the first national institution engaged in marine research. Norvegean professor Hjalmar Broch, an expert in the field of zoology, was appointed as the first director of the Institute. Prof. Broch transfered from Oslo to Split and organized the scientific activities within the Institute based on Norvegean experiences in the field of oceanography. He also helped shaping the strategic vision of the Institute and establishing three main aims in its future research:
1. pure scientific research
2. application of scientific results in the development of fishery
3. education of generations of young scientists and acting for the benefit of the wider community
After Prof. Broch left the Institute, there was already a core of young scientists who specialised in European scientific institutions (France, Germany, Denmark). The Institute was run by the Scientific Council, involving several esteemed members of the Academy (Stanković, V. Vouk, Đordjevic and J. Hadži). At that time, systematic investigations and regular research cruises commenced, resulting in the establishment of four permanent oceanographic stations in the central Adriatic waters.
The activity of the Institute was continued during the Second World War, although with lowered intensity. After the War, one of the most active and successful periods in the history of Institute was initiated during the directorship of Prof. Tonko Šoljan. The most significant undertaking during that period was the”Hvar” Expedition (1948-1949), a series of oceanographic cruises which, in view of their size and number of collected data, represented an unparalleled accomplishment in the oceanography of the Adriatic Sea. At the same time, regular monthly measurements and sampling of physical, chemical and plankton parameters began along the Split – Gargano transect, almost uninnterupted until the present day. Based on these data, scientists gained new and important insights into the dynamics of Adriatic waters, recognizing the connection between the intensified Mediterranean water inflow and the increased productivity of the Adriatic Sea (“Adriatic ingressions”).
During the sixties, the Institute participated in the international MGG expedition, organized to honor the International Geophysical Year. The measurements were then repeated at the same profiles that were sampled during the historical expeditions „Najade“ and „Ciclope“ (1911 – 1914). At the beginning of the 1960s, monthly measurements of phytoplankton primary production (C14 method) started in the coastal and open waters of the Central Adriatic, representing the first research of that kind in the Adriatic Sea.
The beginning of the seventies was marked by a new activity with focus on the coastal areas. Increased urbanization of the coastal belt resulted in the pollution of coastal sea, which created the need for environmental impact assessments in order to mitigate the consequences. As a result, a monitoring of seawater quality was established in the Dalmatian coastal strip, initially under the name “Vir – Konavle” and later continuing as “Pag Konavle”. In the early 1970s, the Institute merged with the Biological Institute of Dubrovnik, organizing its capacities as two off-site laboratories. This part of the Institute remained in operation until 2006, when it was merged with the University of Dubrovnik and continued its work as the”Institute for Marine and Coastal Research”.
In the early 1980s, the Institute organized International Summer School under the name “Fisheries Education Center for Developing Countries”. This summer school, organized as a three-month course, continued every year until the beginning of the Croatian War of Independence in 1990. This period was marked by the significant progress in research of early development stages of sea bass, which was of paramount importance for aquaculture throughout the Mediterranean. At that point, the Institute began to organize a computer center, with the aim of establishing the central data bank for the Adriatic region.
At the beginning of the nineties, the Institute became actively involved in academic education and, together with the University of Split, created and launched the University Department for Sea and Maritime Studies, the first and only program of this kind in Croatia. Collaboration with the University of Split and the University of Dubrovnik continued through the establishment of a joint post graduate study “Applied Marine Sciences” . Similarly, the collaboration with the University of Zagreb and the Institute „Ruđer Bošković“ resulted in the establishment of a joint post-graduate study of Oceanology.
The end of the nineties and the beginning of the new millenium were marked by the intensive international cooperation, staff renewal, the acquisition of modern research equipment and the construction of a new research vessel „Bios Dva“ in 2009. Within the national monitoring program “Adriatic Project – a Systematic Research of the Adriatic Sea as the basis for sustainable development of the Republic of Croatia”, the measurement system of oceanographic buoys (AMOS) was developed. The Institute’s databank MEDAS was created, with the aim to perform data quality checks and data storage and facilitate their delivery to end-users. Today, this databank contains more than 80% of various oceanographic measurements in the Adriatic Sea.
Shortly before and right after the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Community in 2013, the Institute became involved in the implementation of European legislation related to water management and protection of the marine environment and its biological resources in the Republic of Croatia. The Institute’s scientists are actively ensuring that the protection and monitoring of Croatian surface waters is aligned with European regulations through the implementation of Water Framework Directive (WFD 2000/60 / EC) and the establishment of Monitoring of Transitional and Coastal waters. In cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy, we created the basic documents of the Marine Strategy (MSFD, 2008/56 / EC), assessing the current environmental status of Croatian marine waters and the predominant pressures and impacts upon them, and determining the requirements and a set of goals for achieving the Good Environmental Status of marine waters by 2020.
In 2018, by the Decision of the Croatian Government (OG 91/2018), the Institute was appointed as the Reference Center for the Sea, with Institute „Ruđer Bošković“ as a partner. The role of the Reference Center for the Sea encompasses a wide range of activities related to systematic monitoring and observation, as well as the assessments of state of the marine environment, fisheries and mariculture.