(Photo: Dusko Marusic/PIXSELL) (Photo: Dusko Marusic/PIXSELL)

A 56-year-old man could face up to three years behind bars for destroying protected natural resources and poaching after being caught on his boat with the illegal loot on Saturday night.

Date-shell mussels are a recognized delicacy but their harvesting leads to the destruction of the ecosystem. Croatia, like other countries in the region, has banned the harvesting of the protected species in the hopes of saving the Adriatic seabed. The shells are harvested by divers who inflict massive damage by hammering away at the coastline to extract them from rocks and coral reefs.

According to the criminal code, anyone who commits the criminal offense of destroying protected natural resources, including the killing, destruction, possession, or removal of any protected species of animal, plant or fungi, or other protected natural treasures, is to be punished by imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.

Source: HRT