The Government wants to have the Marine Natural Park of Recife do Algarve – Pedra do Valado officially created in January 2024, the same time that it intends to have the mechanisms already approved and ready to operate to compensate local fishermen for any loss of income, due to to the creation of this Protected Marine Area of Community Interest.
The guarantee was given both by João Paulo Catarino, Secretary of State for the Environment, and by Duarte Cordeiro, Minister of the Environment, at the presentation session of the proposed classification of this protected area, which took place at the Campus das Gambelas of the University of Algarve, in Faro, on Monday the 5th.
This was not the first presentation of the proposal to create the PNMRA – had already been presented in 2021, following an unprecedented collaborative process in Portugal -, but it was the last one before being subjected to the scrutiny of society in general.
The proposal was approved yesterday at a meeting of Secretaries of State, "to then proceed to public discussion".
«Then, the process will follow the timetable that was presented, to, until the end of the year, become a reality», revealed to journalists Duarte Cordeiro, on the sidelines of Monday's session.
This schedule begins, precisely, with the Public Discussion of the proposal, which will begin this month – «10 days/notice, plus 20 days for pronouncement».
This is followed by the assessment of the pronouncements and the weighting report, which should be completed in September, and the approval, by the Council of Ministers, of the resolution that will create the new Marine Natural Park.
«In October, we want to sign the compensation program contracts, so that we can allocate the value to next year's Environmental Fund», explained Duarte Cordeiro.
«This is a process that will still have some steps that are required by law, but we believe that, by the end of the year, we will be able to complete all the steps that the law requires, for the classification to be carried out», he added.
At the beginning of next year, in addition to the official institution of the Marine Natural Park, the minister says that it will be possible to attribute the compensations provided for in the proposal, which, in the session on the 5th, were listed by Jorge Gonçalves, from the Center for Science of the Sea in the Algarve (CCMar), which, with the Oceano Azul Foundation, coordinated the entire process.
«Fishermen will be entitled to compensation for possible losses, which is not payment for what they may eventually lose. It is a value that was agreed», he explained to the Sul Informação the researcher from the University of Algarve.
“And compensation is given at the outset, which allows them some slack and preparation for the move. People who used to fish in that place and will no longer be able to do so, have to accommodate this income difference », he added.
At issue are not only financial compensation for loss of income, but also the possibility of rewarded slaughter, in the case of vessels where losses are very high.
Jorge Gonçalves believes that all of this «was safeguarded, not only with financial compensation, but also with valuation measures. If all goes well, as we intend, it will be possible to increase the general income of fishermen, which is one of the objectives of this Marine Protected Area».
By creating the Marine Natural Park of Recife do Algarve – Pedra do Valado, with a total area of 156 square kilometers (km2), from the coast to a depth of 50 meters, opposite the municipalities of Albufeira, Silves and Lagoa, a no-fishing zone, with a total of 20 km2.
Of the latter, 4 km2 will be total exclusion and the remaining 16 km2 correspond to partial protection areas, which will guarantee the preservation of the reef with characteristics «unique in Portugal», which is distinguished by its rich biodiversity.
For local fishing (vessels up to 9 metres), an area of 50 km2 is reserved, and for general fishing, an area of 80,7 km2.
Valuing fish, through the creation of «a brand image, certification, etc.», is one of the ways of getting fishermen to earn more income, something that the researcher is «almost sure» that will be able to do.
There is also a specific measure, thinking of the fishing community of Armação de Pêra, which will be positively discriminated against for having boats parked on the sand.
Valuation measures also include support for the energy transition of vessels and improvement of fishing gear, incentives for the creation of museum centers and interpretive centers in municipalities and the requalification of the coastline and support infrastructure for fishing communities, "including the requalification of auctions», among others.
«Furthermore, we also intend that, by protecting nature, by protecting a maternity, that bears fruit and that there is an increase in the biomass available to fishermen, so that they can enjoy higher incomes in the future or, at least, maintain them».
More than increasing the available biomass, the total protection of the Pedra do Valado reef area, a natural maternity unequal in Portugal, will encourage larger fish in areas where fishing is allowed.
«Along with the certification, these larger fish, of species of great commercial interest, will be even more valued. We are not inventing anything, because this is already happening in other places where this type of protection is carried out, namely next door, in Spain», believes Jorge Gonçalves.
Once compensation and enhancement measures are guaranteed, «all the management dynamics» of this protected area must be ensured, which is to be shared with a wide range of agents, including fishermen associations, municipalities and environmental organisations. , according to Minister Duarte Cordeiro.
The proposal resulted from an unprecedented participation process of more than 70 public and private entities. The project was coordinated by the Oceano Azul Foundation and CCMAR, with the involvement of the Fishermen's Association of Armação de Pêra, the municipalities of Albufeira, Silves and Lagoa and the Parish Council of Armação de Pêra.
The preparation of the document presented at Monday's session was based on a broad consultation with agents in the fisheries sector and the living forces of the territory bordering and bordering the protected area, in a participatory and comprehensive process.
«Effectively, the principle has always been to start the process by going to the agents, the interested parties and those who would eventually have some initial problems with the implementation of a Marine Protected Area, which are normally fishing activities», said Jorge Gonçalves.
«We did this work from the bottom up, trying to involve all entities as much as possible, in a democratic and inclusive process, giving a relevant role to fishing. And it was done this way until the end. It wasn't as much as the fishing industry intended and I recognize that. If the process were to start again now, one thing that would change is that it would give special attention to fishing from the beginning, even more than what was given, because it was not enough», assumed the CCMar researcher.
This inclusion of multiple authors «may be the key to the success» of this whole process, «although it depends not only on us, but on several actors».
«The important thing here is not to leave anyone behind», considered Jorge Gonçalves, who challenges fishermen's associations and professionals in the sector to «take ownership of this marine protection area and make it their own, fighting for its sustainability».
Photos: University of Algarve