The new marine protected area, designed jointly by local entities and communities, was created on November 23, 2023, by resolution of the Council of Ministers and will protect the reef of Pedra do Valado, in the Algarve, constituting a positive step for Portugal in the protection of the ocean and the populations that depend on it.
The government approved yesterday the creation of the Marine Natural Park of Algarve Reef – Pedra do Valado. The proposal had been delivered to the government in May 2021, after an unprecedented participatory process, which involved more than 70 entities, over almost three years, based on solid scientific information and the valuable contributions of all the entities involved.
In the coastal area between Albufeira and the Alfanzina Lighthouse, which extends over 3 municipalities, Albufeira, Lagoa and Silves, is the largest shallow coastal rocky reef that exists in mainland Portugal. This reef has long been known by the local population given the richness of this ecosystem. It benefits from unique conditions that allow more than 900 species to exist, 12 of which are new to science, favouring marine biodiversity and the productivity of the area.
It was the local communities who alerted to the need to protect this place, namely the representatives of the local fisheries. The involvement of the Centre for Marine Sciences and the Oceano Azul Foundation, the Fishermen’s Associations, the municipalities of Albufeira, Silves and Lagoa and the Parish Council of Armação de Pêra, initiated a participatory process with the aim of protecting this reef.
This process took place from 2019 to 2021 and included the participation of professional and recreational fishing associations, representatives of maritime-tourism companies, regional, local and central administration, scientific research centres, sports federations, maritime authority, school groups, non-governmental organisations and business associations. Six face-to-face sessions, more than 60 bilateral meetings and a final session were held to present the zoning proposal and the bases for the regulation of this new marine protected area.
Sciaena has accompanied and contributed to this pioneering participatory process in our country since the beginning, which has tried to be as inclusive as possible, built “from the bottom up”, with the aim of protecting and valuing natural capital but taking into account the interests and needs of the communities that depend on it, combined with a solid technical and scientific foundation. The association intends to remain active in the next steps of regulation and implementation of the marine area, always in dialogue and cooperation with all interested parties.
“We are very pleased with this decision, as Pedra do Valado now has a marine park that will protect its natural wealth. This decision concludes an unprecedented participatory process in Portugal and which we have followed since the beginning. At Sciaena we believe that this can be a milestone in the way the country and the Algarve region deal with the protection of marine biodiversity, with a scientific basis, in an integrated, inclusive way and for the benefit of coastal communities”, said Gonçalo Carvalho, Executive Coordinator of Sciaena.
Portugal is thus taking a very positive step in protecting the ocean and the communities that depend on it, and is now a little closer to meeting the goals it has set itself, namely to protect 30% of its waters by 2026. However, this is only a small step that has to be integrated into the creation of a Network of Marine Protected Areas, which is coherent, representative and with effective management measures, as this is the only way to ensure the success of these areas. The growing need to protect the ocean and contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in harmony with local human activities is possible and the new Marine Natural Park of Algarve Reef – Pedra do Valado is proof of this.
Contact: Gonçalo Carvalho 936257281, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Sciaena is a partner of the AMPIC.COM (https://ampiccomprojeto.pt/) project, which aims to demonstrate the natural and cultural heritage of the now created Marine Natural Park of Algarve Reef – Pedra do Valado.