Image: Quarpesca

Algarve fishermen hold protest against marine park

Park presented as solution to “preserving biodiversity; making fishing more profitable”

Fishermen from Quarteira, in the Algarve, will be staging a protest flotilla on Saturday against the project to create the (long-awaited) Pedra do Valado Marine Park – accusing the authorities of a lack of dialogue.

“The process that was carried out to create this marine park was neither consensual nor democratic”, Hugo Martins, president of the Association of Fishermen and Shipowners of Quarteira (QUARPESCA), tells Lusa State news agency.

We have been ignored. We are very harmed, and we want to be heard.

The association includes 140 vessels from Quarteira, of which about 50 operate regularly in the area that is now proposed for the implementation of the park.

The protest – which will involve at least 50 boats from the ports of Olhão and Albufeira, will take place on Saturday starting at 10am. The idea is to cover the route along the Algarve coast earmarked for this protected area. 

The Pedra do Valado Marine Natural Park is the largest coastal rock reef in mainland Portuga. It extends between the municipality of Lagoa and that of Albufeira, covering a total area of more than 150 km2.  Its proposed classification as an Algarve Recife Marine Natural Park (PNMRA) was approved in early June, with public consultation ending earlier this month (August 4).

The fishermen are supremely critical of the financial compensation mechanism, which has been one of the factors blocking this project.

As Hugo Martins explains, the values have not been revealed. “The public consultation document is empty and has no ideas, we don’t know anything (…) Many things mentioned before are not mentioned (in the document open to public consultation),” he added criticising the lack of response to an exhibition presented by QUARPESCA.

“The government should talk directly to us”, he went on, ostensibly criticising how the process has been conducted by the Center for Marine Sciences (CCMAR) of the University of Algarve (UAlg), says Lusa.

For CCMAR, this reef as one of the “richest and most productive areas in the region, with many species with a commercial interest and interest in conservation, including species new to science”. But – and this is the driving force behind the push to ‘preserve’ the stretch of coastline – the Algarve has lost a considerable part of its natural values in recent decades due to pressure from fishing and tourism. “if we do not change this trajectory, we run the risk of reaching 2050 and losing the wealth of biodiversity and natural capital that we have left“,  the executive director of the foundation championing the project explained earlier this year.

To this, QUARPESCA has stated the obvious, in a comprehensive text in Jornal Barlavento: “If fishing was not sustainable and co-managed by fishermen, the biodiversity of Pedra do Valado wouldn’t exist as it does today. Fishing is an economic activity, and as an economic activity it has to be sustainable. That’s why fishing in the Algarve region has to be seen as a whole and not as areas of interest, since the whole region functions as a sustainable ecosystem“.

Source material: LUSA/ Expresso/ Barlavento