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Nature protection league opposes underwater museum

Portugal’s Nature Protection League (LPN) is opposing the sinking of disused Navy ships off the coast of Portimão as it says the environmental effects of the project have not been assessed and the public has not been consulted about it.

In a document sent to the Minister of the Environment and Agriculture, Assunção Cristas, and the Minister of Defence José Aguiar-Branco, the LPN questions the economic and social value of the Ocean Revival underwater museum project, being developed by the MUSUMAR association in Portimão (see Algarve Resident, February 17 edition).

The LPN also wants to know why the Ministry of Defence agreed to donate Navy ships to be submerged by a Câmara or private enterprise as it says the only acceptable option would have been to dismantle the ships at national shipyards and the parts recycled or sold, in line with natural heritage directives, while promoting jobs and guaranteeing revenue for the State.

In a statement sent to the Algarve Resident, the LPN says there is no legal basis to carry out such a project and asks Minister Assunção Cristas to evaluate what is at stake and urgently create new legislation to protect the marine environment.

The League also slams the fact that the project was never put to public scrutiny or subject to environmental and economic assessment studies. Two Navy ships arrived at Portimão’s fishing port two weeks ago to be prepared for sinking in the summer.

But the LPN asks in its statement: “Are the entities carrying out the decontamination of the ships and managing toxic residue certified for the job? Are the works being supervised to ensure they are abiding by the law, namely the residue control directive?”

The project, it says, is violating various national and international directives and conventions with regard to the protection of the environment and biodiversity.

Regarding the reasons put forward by the project promoters that an underwater recreational park would provide an additional tourist product and thus aid the region’s economy, the LPN pointed out that 12 shipwrecks of “historical and archaeological value” can already be admired off the Algarve coast.

It added that sinking ships in 20 to 30 metre deep waters would restrict the sport to professional divers, contrary to what has been announced, that the project aimed to attract hundreds of international amateur divers.

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected].

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