Sciaena, member of Seas At Risk, has been engaging in the creation of a bottom-up Marine Protected Area in the Algarve, in the south of Portugal. Pedra do Valado reef is a known biodiversity hotspot and recognised for its importance as a nursery area of the species that  many local fisheries depend on.

Off the coast of the Algarve lies one of the largest natural coastal reefs of the country. A true rocky oasis in the middle of a large sandy area, which benefits from unique natural conditions that make it a hotspot of marine biodiversity. The Pedra do Valado reef has been important for fisheries for many centuries, and its importance as a nursery area is well known by the local fishers. Unfortunately, the impacts of human activities threaten this important marine ecosystem, especially as recreational fisheries and touristic activities increasingly take place in the area.

Aware of this, on November 28, 2018, at the Armação de Pêra Lota, Centre of Marine Sciences, the Oceano Azul Foundation, the Municipality of Silves, the Armação de Pêra municipality and the Fishermen Association of Armação de Pêra, publicly presented the bases for the creation of a Marine Protected Area of ​​Community Interest .

Since then, in an unprecedented participatory process in Portugal, with the active involvement of the municipalities of Albufeira, Lagoa and Silves, several participatory sessions have been promoted, where the foundations of the project for the creation of a Marine Protected Area were deepened and developed. These meetings had the active participation of associations representing fishing activity (leisure and professional) and maritime-tourism activities, representatives of the regional and central administration, state laboratories, sports federations, school groups, non-governmental organisations, associations business, and more.

United by this common interest, the various entities intend to promote sustainable local fishing and nature tourism, along with the preservation and protection of natural values, biodiversity, and services (blue natural capital), as well as encouraging the oceanic literacy of the resident communities and visitors. The main focus is on raising awareness and supporting the various entities and agents in the region, and on implementing effective measures that promote the sustainability of resources and prevent the development of activities that affect this marine ecosystem.

After more than two years of active involvement by the various entities in a participatory process led by Centre of Marine Sciences, on February 5, 2021, the proposal for the creation of AMPIC in the region was presented, and formally delivered to the government in the following month. In June 2022, during the UN Oceans Conference, the Portuguese Environment Minister announced that the proposal had been accepted by the government and that the regulation that establishes the Marine Protected Area is in progress.

Sciaena has been participating actively and engaging on this process since 2018 as a relevant stakeholder in the participatory process, but also in reaching out to authorities and other stakeholders to raise awareness about the importance of the Pedra do Valado reef as a biodiversity hotspot and the urgency to protect it, and to safeguard the livelihoods that depend on it.

During 2022, Sciaena and Centre of Marine Sciences –with the support from Oceano Azul Foundation and the local municipalities — implemented project, co-financed by the Mar2020 Operational Program and by GAL PESCA of Barlavento of Algarve, through the Barlavento Development Agency. The project aims at deepening the baseline data and raising awareness of the local and regional stakeholders and society in general of the benefits for biodiversity and for the local economy that establishing an MPA in the Pedra do Valado reef can have. The two organisations and their partners will continue this work, with the hope that the Marine Protected Area is designated in 2023.