|Resource users' perceptions towards the marine management plan of the "Parque natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina" (SW Portugal)|
Guimarães Salge, P. (2011). Resource users' perceptions towards the marine management plan of the "Parque natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina" (SW Portugal). MSc Thesis. University of Algarve, Centre of Marine Science: Faro. 96 pp.
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The Portuguese SW continental coast is partially protected by a natural park (Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina – PNSACV) since 1995. A marine zone 2 km wide has been designated along the coast of this park (ca. 130 km) with oceanic sandy beaches, extensive rocky shores, and small estuaries and coastal lagoons. In this marine park, intensive and traditional fisheries affect several target species for subsistence, commercial use or recreation. In addition, the park is also used for tourism activities, such as scuba diving and marine wildlife watching. Recently, the Portuguese agency for nature conservation and biodiversity (ICNB) proposed a new management plan (MP) for PNSACV that comes up with the protection of several marine areas (MPAs) with different levels (total, partial and complementary) and restrictions for the main activities performed inside these areas. The designation of a MPAs involves ecological issues and uncertainties (location, size, shape, duration, terms of access), and also raises a great number of social science questions. These include the political acceptability of the MPA concept, the socio-economic groups that will gain and/or lose and the perceptions of the park users on the protection. When a plan is developed based on top-down approach and with little local stakeholders involvement, a low level of MPA acceptance and an increase of conflicts probability may result. A survey questionnaire was applied in the Vicentina coast to three main marine resources users (20 commercial fishermen, 40 recreational fishermen and 4 marine tourism agencies (MTA)), aiming to access their perception regarding (1) the acceptance of the management measures for each MPA level, (2) the aims of the MPA creation and the expected outcomes, (3) the public participation in the plan review process, and (4) the current and future system for the park management. In general there were good agreements on the conservation measures imposed to the MPAs with low protection levels. However, commercial and recreational fishermen were not in agreement with fishing restrictions applied to the ?no-take? areas and partial protection areas, mainly because most of them attest these areas are important fishing points. Commercial fishermen demonstrated a highest level of discordance towards the objectives listed for the creation of the MPAs, and also they were the most disbelievers with the expected social and economics outcomes for medium and long term provided by the MPAs. MTA respondents were the group with major participation in the MP discussion public meetings, and all stakeholder groups felt that the revision process of the plan was not participatory and fair. The management system currently adopted by ICNB was classified as "Unsatisfactory" by most interviewees of the three groups, and they also strongly supported a co-management system as a new model to improve their participation and to achieve the MPA aims. There is a need for increasing the dialogue between stakeholders to improve the knowledge (traditional and scientific) supporting regulations and also the ecological and social benefits of the MPAs. To achieve MPA success the manager should adopt a "bottom-up" approach, and involve stakeholders in the decision making process.