MARE: Performance of MPAs in Portugal

Portugal has one of the largest marine jurisdictions in Europe being viewed as a major player in ocean conservation. Yet, although several MPAs have been established, their performance hasn’t been evaluated. The recent race to designate very large MPAs in remote areas is driving Portugal to follow the same path. Although, looking solely at cover area may be deceptive at estimating conservation achievements. A new classification system of MPAs will evaluate conservation goals. A performance index will be built and tested and we expect this to be globally applicable and useful to the full marine conservation community.

This project represents a first effort to evaluate the performance of Portuguese MPAs. We are interested in answering the following questions:

  1. What is the current level of protection in Portugal?
  2. What are the main uses and regulations of MPAs and which pressures are the MPAs and their surrounding waters exposed to?
  3. Are the established MPAs being effectively managed?

There is no analysis available on MPA characteristics, status, regulations or performance. Understanding how MPAs work will assist managers on how to evaluate and adaptively improve their effectiveness. This project will:

  1. Create an inventory of Portuguese MPAs and analyze their characteristics (e.g. zoning, numbers, geographical distribution, protection level, size…).
  2. Classify types of MPAs following a new global classification system developed by us.
  3. Get data on the main uses and threats of each MPA through the literature and contacting managers, users and scientists.
  4. Obtain information about the design, management and governance effectiveness of Portuguese MPAs in reducing threats.
  5. Develop a performance index of MPAs using the information above.

The identification of existing MPAs will be performed through existing data, from a number of public documents and sources of information (e.g. databases, scientific literature, direct contacts with managers). Design characteristics, management schemes and threats will be assessed via questionnaires that will be distributed (electronically or personally) to MPA managers and local scientists. These questionnaires will be developed based on similar surveys designed to evaluate management effectiveness (e.g. Pomeroy et al. 2004: “How is your MPA doing?”). The results of this project will be offered as a resource to MPA managers, institutions, scientists and decision-makers and disseminated to the general public. Particularly following outputs are foreseen (within 6 months):

  • Output 1: A list of all Portuguese MPAs and their characteristics that will be provided to the National Conservation Institute of Portugal (ICNF) and to the managers of each MPA.
  • Output 2: An online information booklet for the general public listing MPAs types in Portugal and their features in order to promote the importance of marine conservation.
  • Output 3: Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of regulatory and governance regimes and providing this information to ICNF managers.
  • Output 4: A performance index evaluating the effectiveness of Portuguese MPAs and preliminary guidelines of the index for global use.
  • Output 5: An open workshop for managers, scientists and users presenting the project outputs and results.
  • We expect the project results to be published in the scientific literature and synthetized in an electronic report to be distributed to the wider conservation community (Foundations, NGO’s, Stakeholders’ organizations, etc.)


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