Quarpesca promotes protest against the creation of the Pedra do Valado Marine Park

Fishermen's association strongly criticizes the whole process

Quarpesca members will go out to sea on the 19th of August to protest against the Creation of the Marine Natural Park Recife do Algarve – Pedra do Valado, following the public consultation on the proposal to establish this Marine Protected Area, which ended on the 4th of August.

The fishermen's association based in Quarteira had already expressed its disagreement with the creation of the Marine Park, considering that the compensation provided for in the proposal is far from being sufficient, in a public position that followed to the final submission of the proposal in June.

Meanwhile, Quarpesca did not waste the opportunity to officially present its arguments against the creation of the park, during the public consultation on the proposal, which will run from 23 June to 4 August – like Olhãopesca, which also disagrees with the measure.

More than participating in the consultation, the fishermen of Quarteira decided to hold "a public demonstration that foresees the departure of our vessels in a protest march", according to Quarpesca.

One of the shortcomings pointed out by this entity to the submitted proposal, which resulted from a prior participation process, coordinated by the Algarve Sea Science Center (CCMar), in partnership with the Oceano Azul Foundation, is the «lack of social impact studies , economic and even cultural that the implementation of this project would have».

In the absence of this survey in the proposal, Quarpesca itself «proceeded with an economic impact study through the consultation of around 50 vessels» associated with it and that operate regularly in the Pedra do Valado area, «having reached values ​​very close to 3 million euros annually (the lives of many families are at stake)."

Another issue raised by the fishermen's association is an alleged "lack of democratic vein on the part of the project's promoters, who proclaimed consensus and participation when it did not exist".

Quarpesca says that «it has prepared a contribution document for this project, from a constructive perspective, which until today has not been mentioned on any occasion by the actors in this process».

«We put forward proposals that intended, in some way, to mitigate the drastic impact of this project on the lives of dozens of fishing families. The preservation of an exclusive area for small-scale fishing between six and eight miles, without vessels operating with trawling gear, was one of the advanced measures. It is incomprehensible to everyone that trawling is the most destructive and that small-scale fishing, seen as the most sustainable, is penalized the most. It is impossible to accept. A process like this involves everyone's effort and commitment», he argues.

As for compensatory measures, some of the suggestions, namely direct compensation to fishermen, were taken into account, but the formula found by CCMAR «was totally unreasonable and unfair», they argue.

Quarpesca recalls that «the fishing activity in the so-called “Pedra do Valado” is lost in the memory of time» and that fishermen «for many years» who have been knowledgeable «of this very rich fishing area that quickly became of valuable interest economic and as such of extreme social importance for the fishing communities of the Algarve region».

«Aware of this importance, the fishing communities quickly began to co-manage fisheries in “Pedra do Valado”. It was this integrated co-management between the various fishing communities that simultaneously use this area for their daily activity, which today led scientists from the University of Algarve to defend the creation of a Protected Area in this region», maintains Quarpesca.

«The arguments presented are those of the preservation of existing resources that could be decimated by what they claim fishing is doing. However, all the studies carried out for the implementation of this area were solely and exclusively biological and not from a perspective of evaluating resources and springs/stocks of species, whether of economic interest or of species of no economic interest, but also extremely important for the chain. feed on all other species», he accuses.

Despite the fishing carried out in “Pedra do Valado” over the years, “it is not as destructive as it seems. Otherwise, scientists today would not find the enormous diversity of species (900 species), species that until now were unknown to these same scientists (12 new species for science and 45 new records for the Portuguese coast) and several species with status of conservation, namely the seahorse. If, in reality, fishing were not sustainable and co-managed by fishermen, the biodiversity of “Pedra do Valado” would not exist».

Still in the field of sustainability, the association points out the risk of «increased fishing effort throughout the Algarve region, mainly in areas that are currently overfished. Vessels will have to be distributed throughout the rest of the Algarve sea, increasing overfishing throughout the region and drastically reducing fishermen's earnings. This decrease in earnings could, as an immediate consequence, lead to an increase in illegal fishing, which over the years has been managed to be controlled».

They even fear that this will lead young people, «already so reticent to embrace the profession (at this moment a greater number of young people have gone into fishing), to lose interest in the activity once and for all».

Also absent from the proposal, they say, is tourist pressure on this area, since there are no restrictions on tourist activities, something that Quarpesca repudiates.

The association also wanted to know “the opinion of our official institution, the Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere, on this project”, as well as details on the legal issues associated with the Marine Park, which are not explicit in the proposal.

Despite considering that «the creation of a Marine Park in the Algarve is possible», Quarpesca questions if this is done «without the agreement of the fishermen, will it bring any kind of future results?».