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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 325-333

The Luiz Saldanha Marine Park: An overview of conflicting perceptions

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
GonÁalo Carneiro
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.92149

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Date of Web Publication21-Jan-2012


The involvement of local populations in the different stages of establishing marine protected areas has been recognised as a key factor for the success of these initiatives. In this paper, the case of the Luiz Saldanha Marine Park is presented as an example of a conservation area whose development is presently being affected by a high degree of conflict and mistrust. The sources and the nature of the main conflicts are reviewed and linked first to the history of the development of the management plan of the park, and then to specific elements of this plan. Consequences for the current status and future development of the park are discussed.

Keywords: conflict, Luiz Saldanha Marine Park, management, marine protected areas, participation, Portugal

How to cite this article:
Carneiro G. The Luiz Saldanha Marine Park: An overview of conflicting perceptions. Conservat Soc 2011;9:325-33

How to cite this URL:
Carneiro G. The Luiz Saldanha Marine Park: An overview of conflicting perceptions. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2011 [cited 2020 Oct 29];9:325-33. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2011/9/4/325/92149

   Introduction Top

If there is one aspect that clearly demarcates the theoretical construct of nature conservation areas of today from that of the early to mid-twentieth century, it is the recognition of the imperative of involving local populations in the different stages of establishing and running such areas (White 1989; Farrow 1996; Christie & White 1997; Graham et al. 2003; Lundquist & Granek 2005; FAO 2007). This imperative can be defended not only on moral grounds-firstly, because every individual should be allowed to have a say on all matters affecting her or his life; and secondly, because of the generalised assumption that local populations typically bear the lion's share of the costs of conservation areas-but also on account of practical aspects that may prove critical to the success of any initiative of this type. One such aspect is the assurance of sufficient support-or, to use the current jargon, ownership-by the locals, often a pre-condition for eased compliance with stricter norms that tend to follow proclamation of the conservation status. That support simplifies-and potentially reduces the cost, of-implementation of the conservation area. In ideal situations of extreme buy-in and in the presence of adequate mechanisms for devolution, local populations may assume entire responsibility for monitoring, surveillance and enforcement. A second practical aspect is the possibility of, through the involvement of locals, gaining access to and making use of their knowledge and experience about the area being conserved in the improvement of the very conservation regimes.

These arguments are not new, and reasonings along similar lines abound in the literature on nature conservation, partly because of the growing interest in combining conservation and development objectives in today's conservation areas. Still, in that same body of literature, every set of wishful intentions or recommendations relative to the involvement of local populations is matched by the narrative of an actual case where that involvement never actually materialised in practice. It is one such case that this paper intends to explore-the Luiz Saldanha Marine Park (hereinafter LSMP), located on the south-western shores of the Setúbal peninsula on the west coast of mainland Portugal. This paper attempts to elucidate the most important points of tension between the park and the different user groups, as well as among the latter themselves. It relates some of these tensions to the main management measures implemented in the park. Finally, it discusses how the current level of mistrust and mutual disbelief may impact on the future development of the park.

   Methodolody and Data Top

This paper is based primarily on perception data collected through semi-structured interviews with some of the key stakeholders of the LSMP. Stakeholder perception data, it has been argued, constitute a potentially valuable contribution to the evaluation of resource management interventions (Webb et al. 2004). 1 Data of this type offer an insight not only into stakeholders' own assessment of the intervention, but also into their knowledge of the socio-ecological system in question. They are particularly useful in situations where quantitative data are inadequate or insufficient.

A total of 12 interviews were conducted between 17 and 22 November 2009 with representatives of the Arrábida Natural Park (Management of the LSMP); Fishing Shipowners Association (Associação de Armadores da Pesca Local do Centro e Sul); Artesanalpesca Fishing Cooperative; Association of Maritime Tourism Operators of Sesimbra; Fishermen's Mutual Insurance Cooperative; Project MarGov; Recreational Boating Association of Sesimbra; Sesibal Fishing Cooperative; Sesimbra Municipality (Social Studies Office and Fisheries Support Office); Setúbal Municipality (Division for Social Inclusion); and Zuca Sports Fishing Club. Common themes discussed with all stakeholders included perceived impacts of, and satisfaction with, the park's management regime; participation in, and influence over, management of the park; relative impacts of the different human activities on the marine environment in the park; and perceived benefits of the park-in particular, in terms of restoration of the marine environment. Interviews with representatives from economic sectors-primarily fisheries-also addressed the characteristics of the activity-e.g., type of fisheries, labour conditions, revenues-and how these were affected by the establishment of the park.

Data collected for this study were exclusively qualitative and therefore not subject to any quantitative analysis of the type conducted in the studies mentioned above. Findings from other sources were used wherever appropriate to complement the perception data gathered for this study. Of these secondary sources, the study by Cabral et al. (2008) deserves particular mention as the one with the most extensive data pertaining to human activities in the park, including stakeholders' views about the park's impacts.

   The History Top

The year 1998 saw the official proclamation of the LSMP. Formally, this involved the gazetting of a Regulatory Decree that extended the boundaries of the Arrábida Natural Park-created in 1976-to include a portion of the coastal waters to the south and west of the Arrábida mountains (Decreto Regulamentar No. 23/98). An area of high marine biodiversity-including numerous commercially important species-and of recognised natural beauty, the coast along the Arrábida and around Cape Espichel has been the stage of intense and varied human use for many decades. 2 The concerns voiced over the years about the degradation of the marine environment and the perceived need to adopt measures to halt it eventually led to the 1998 decree. The final limits of the park were set in 2003 with the appendage of a couple of sites deemed of particular interest for conservation (Decreto Regulamentar No. 11/2003).

In the first seven years of existence, the LSMP was little more than a paper park. Without specific regulations or a management plan that could force changes in the levels of utilisation of the marine environment, the park was, in its early years, a vague presence that few cared to bother about. The Ministry of Environment, however, through the Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (hereinafter INCB) was busy with characterising the area, and a series of base studies were produced around the turn of the millennium, covering multiple aspects of the ecology and socio-economy of the area. 3 This work paved the way for the drafting of the management plan that would be presented for public discussion in the first half of 2003. Concomitantly, consultations with populations living in and around the park and making use of its natural resources were held to discuss the draft proposal, which would be scrutinised once more in 2004 by an independent commission. Some of the public hearings held during this process were the stage of heated protests by groups of users of the park-in particular fishermen-who, already then, felt not only that their livelihoods were under threat, but also that the park's proponents were being both insensitive to their needs and unyielding in their refusal of incorporating their proposals into the draft regulation. As will be discussed below, the vicissitudes of the consultation process and how it was perceived by different stakeholders lie at the root of the conflicts between the park and different user groups that persist up to this day.

The management plan for the LSMP (Regulamento do Plano de Ordenamento do Parque Natural da Arrábida, hereafter POPNA) was eventually finalised and approved, having been gazetted in the summer of 2005. 4 It entered into force on the day after its publication, with a transitional period of four years applicable to commercial fishing and some aspects of recreational boating. If, by then, the formal consultation period had already come to its end, the wave of protests did not. If anything, it grew in visibility. Large demonstrations were organised locally, with periodic maritime rallies that deliberately violated the park's regulations, prompting nation-wide media coverage not only of the events, but also of the 'prepotency' and 'injustice' of the park's way of handling 'legitimate, historical claims' of the users of the area. 5 The latest in this series of large public demonstrations was held on August 22, 2010, signalling a further anniversary of the entry into force of the management plan. In parallel, opposition to the park's regulations assumed other, more discrete forms: opinion articles for and, more frequently, against the park appeared in the local press and in the cyberspace; individual users and sector organisations discussed alternative management measures with the park authorities and presented proposals to that end; and a multi-stakeholder forum (Fórum Sesimbra) was established in the attempt to congregate the individual strength of the different voices against the park and to find ways of improving the management plan in favour of the users. To the discontent of many, and despite all of the attempts just mentioned, the management regime of the LSMP has, so far, not been subject to any alteration.

   The Main Elements of Management Top

The POPNA, as an instrument for managing a system that is ecologically complex and, more importantly, subject to varied and intense human use, has been criticised for its rigidity, inter alia, by the commission that reviewed the draft proposal back in 2004 (Sousa Reis et al. 2004). The fundamental tool for the protection of the marine environment is a zoning scheme that determines where different activities may or may not take place. On top of this there is a general interdiction of trawl fishing; spear fishing with and without SCUBA; collection of marine species, including algae but excluding certain commercial fish species, subject to specific licensing; dumping of wastes; use of jet-skis; commercial aquaculture; installation of ports, marinas and berths; and all actions that damage or alter the natural environment. Commercial fishing in the park is limited to a total of 25 species-which include all species traditionally targeted by commercial fisheries-and to vessels of less than seven metres in length, subject to the issue of specific licenses by the park's administration. Certain organised activities, such as SCUBA diving or maritime tourism, are equally dependent on the granting of specific licenses. Additional fisheries-specific limitations apply according to the zoning scheme, which also sets the boundaries for all other activities permitted within the park: These are primarily recreational boating and sports fishing, and to a lesser extent maritime tourism activities.

The zoning scheme itself considers three different types of protection levels that apply to the eight zones that the park has been divided into [Figure 1]. In the single total protection zone, which "comprises the main underwater habitats [...] that constitute a unique wealth of the Portuguese coast" (RCM No. 141/2005: P. 4867, Art. 38-2), all human presence is prohibited except for purposes of research, monitoring, surveillance and enforcement, and emergency, as well as in cases of so-called innocent passage at a distance greater than 0.25 nautical miles (hereinafter nm) from shore. There are then four partial protection zones where "the maintenance of habitats and of certain species is compatible with temporary uses that respect the objectives of nature and biodiversity conservation" (RCM No. 141/2005: P. 4868, Art. 40-3). In these areas, permitted activities include recreational boating (although berthing is only allowed at distances greater than 0.25 nm from shore); organised recreational activities, such as SCUBA diving, pending the granting of licences; and commercial fishing with traps at distances greater than 200 m from the shore. In the partial protection zone around the Portinho da Arrábida, commercial fishing is not permitted at all, and additional restrictions apply to recreational boating. Finally, in the remaining three zones of complimentary protection, restrictions to berthing in respect of recreational boating are abandoned, sports fishing is allowed, as is commercial fishing with nets at distances greater than 0.25 nm from shore, with hook and line and with traps. In addition to this, in two beaches in the Sesimbra bay, an ancient type of beach seine (arte xávega) is allowed when incorporated into tourism or cultural events. In this respect a specific protocol between the park and the Sesimbra municipality has been signed.
Figure 1: Map of the Arrábida Natural Park, showing the zoning on land and at sea. At sea, darkest shade of grey represents the total protection zone, the intermediate shade of grey the partial protection zone, and the lightest shade of grey the complementary protection zone

Click here to view

A few words are due about some aspects of the licensing of commercial fishing inside the park. At present there are about 80 active professional fishing licenses granted by the park-a number that has remained unchanged since the initial round of licensing that followed the entry into force of the POPNA in 2005. These licenses have been granted exclusively to fishermen with boats registered in the port of Sesimbra, and can only be transferred or sold to direct relatives. Transfer or sale to non-direct relatives can only occur in cases of prolonged and confirmed illness. Finally, the annual renewal of licenses is dependent upon a minimum of 100 catches as per registered sale at the local official fish auction (Docapesca).

   The Anatomy of Conflict Top

Participation and agency

Earlier mention was made of the perception held by many that the consultation process during the elaboration of the POPNA was less than optimal. Among many user groups the feeling persists that participation was meaningless, because although people had formally been given the opportunity to present and discuss different proposals, the proponents of the park-who were, and still are, the ministry of environment, through the INCB-showed little or no regard for these proposals and went ahead with a regulation to which stakeholders' input was minimal (see Sousa Reis et al. 2004). 6 Regrettably, since the POPNA entered into force in 2005, this feeling has not faded; in fact, despite attempts by several user groups at convincing the park to change specific regulations of the management plan, no amendment has yet been made. This only adds to the generalised perception that the park's authorities, although open to receiving proposals, show no willingness to accommodate them in a revised set of regulations. Hence, in the minds of many, participation is possible, but agency is not.

This perception, widespread as it is among former and current users of the park, has led to three distinct reactions: Some have attempted to bypass the park's authorities and have presented their claims directly to higher offices-for instance, the state secretary and the minister of environment the president of the parliament and the president of the republic, the two highest representatives of the Portuguese state. Others continue to operate within local user organisations-chief among which is Fórum Sesimbra-trying to generate a critical voice sufficiently strong to force the park to alter the POPNA. Finally, a smaller number of users have given up the fight against the park and its management plan out of sheer disbelief in any possibility of change.

The park's authorities share little of these views. While they recognise the discontent of certain user groups with the current management plan, they do not understand why matters of participation and agency play a significant role in this. The pre-2005 consultation is considered to having been a suitable avenue for beneficial interchange between the park and user groups, despite the recognition that some of the larger open public hearings were of limited usefulness. The approved POPNA is thus said to contain a number of provisions where conservation objectives were compromised in favour of certain human activities (see Sousa Reis et al. 2004). The post-2005 alteration of the management plan has so far been conditioned by two aspects: Firstly, a legal impediment of revising the plan within the first three years upon gazetting-that is, at least until August 24, 2008, although if one counts from the end of the transitional period, revision may not take place before August 24, 2012. Secondly, the argument that sufficient time has not yet passed since the management plan entered into force and that, consequently, its actual virtues or shortcomings in terms of both conservation and socio-economic objectives are not yet measurable. This argument is supported by evidence from other marine conservation initiatives, where it has been found that, depending on local socio-ecological aspects and on the level of ecosystem degradation, marine species may take several years to recover from intense and prolonged anthropogenic stress (Sweeting & Polunin 2005; Claudet et al. 2008; Molloy et al. 2009). 7 In the LSMP, preliminary results suggest some recovery of commercial fish species, primarily inside the total protection zone (CCMar 2010: 5). As for socio-economic impacts of the establishment of the park, there is, to this author's knowledge, no monitoring programme in place.

The issue of participation and agency is arguably the one where it is more difficult-if at all possible-to discern where the truth actually lies. Accusations abound on both fields-park and user groups alike. To cite but a few examples, some users claim that it is the park's administration which is insensitive and in turn steers the INCB and the ministry, while others claim it is the opposite way around. Some go as far as saying that the internet site of the INCB was intentionally inaccessible during the public discussion period so as to hinder participation. The park, in turn, argues that some of the louder voices opposing the park in public actually praise it in private for benefits that have already become tangible. Users say that the park will not change the POPNA because it anyway wants to annihilate all commercial activities in the area (see MARGOV 2009b: 8); the park argues that it cannot change the regulations according to every individual proposal because it has conservation objectives to achieve. However surprising these and similar accusations may appear, they are important to the extent that they add to and help consolidate other sources of conflict.

Degradation of the marine environment

The intention behind the creation of the LSMP was primarily to impose a more stringent regulatory framework on human activities in the area, in order to preserve pristine ecosystems and to enable recovery of habitats and species not yet subject to irreversible anthropogenic pressure (RCM No. 141/2005). It was thereby implied that the different human activities were the cause of the observed degradation of the marine environment. This understanding is shared up to this day by most, if not all, of the park's stakeholders. It is in the interpretation of the relative contributions of those activities to that degradation that disagreements appear between stakeholder groups.

Fisheries is the number one source of degradation according to most, including many fishermen themselves (see Cabral et al. 2008). However, while the scientific community, the park and most recreational users point the finger at commercial fishing, professional fishermen tend to see things differently. It is worth noting here that professional fishermen, even in a relatively small community like Sesimbra, do not form a single, homogeneous group [for a characterisation of the fishing community in Sesimbra, see Ferreira (2000) and, especially, Cruz (2009)]. Fisheries are clearly divided by type of boat and gear used, and by fishing area. These divisions are also manifested in the formation of different groups of fishermen. Among themselves, some of these groups exchange accusations of responsibility for the depletion of fish stocks. When attacked from the outside by non-fishermen, a certain unity emerges in blaming either pollution or sports and spear fishing, neither of which is subject to the same level of control by the authorities as commercial fishing. According to the survey conducted by Cabral et al., most fishermen believe that the largest negative impacts for the marine environment arise either from activities other than fishing, or from fisheries using gears that they themselves do not use (Cabral et al. 2008: 52). Earlier findings indicate that fishermen acknowledged the need to restrict (at least some) fishing activities to allow for the recovery of marine ecosystems in the park (Sousa Reis et al. 2004; Cunha 2008).

With regard to pollution, it is primarily professional fishermen who stress the pervasiveness of its negative impacts, although groups of recreational users also refer to it (see Sousa Reis et al. 2004; Cabral et al. 2008; MARGOV 2009a, b). It is noteworthy that a matter that should be relatively straightforward to demonstrate unequivocally is the source of considerable disagreement between groups of stakeholders. The scientific view shared by the park is that all pollution originating from the estuary of the Sado river situated east of the LSMP is pushed by prevailing currents and winds southward along the Atlantic coast of the Tróia peninsula. A set of sandbanks on the eastern edge of the park further blocks any of this pollution from affecting the park's waters. Since no important sources of pollution exist within the park, it is in effect shielded from the only major source in the region, except in the rare occasions of south-southwesterly storms. Those arguing for the centrality of pollution in marine environmental degradation claim that that explanation is incorrect, and affirm that pollution from the Sado all too frequently reaches the eastern third of the park, including the only zone of total protection. The park counters that if this were the case, ecosystems would be affected as a whole, while in reality it is primarily species targeted by fisheries that show signs of decline. The preliminary results relative to commercial fish species mentioned above appear to support this thesis (CCMar 2010; Cunha 2010). The increase in biomass of these species in the course of the past three years seems to indicate that fisheries have a greater impact on fish abundance than does pollution. Indeed, during this period, significant restrictions have been imposed on fisheries, whereas pollution has remained unaltered.

In the absence of convincing data, the Arrábida seagrass meadows are often brought to the discussion to illustrate the perceived relevance of pollution affecting the LSMP. These meadows, dominated by the species Zostera marina, Zostera noltii and Cymodocea nodosa, are one of the key constituents of marine ecosystems in the area, as well as along much of the rocky coast of mainland Portugal. Seagrasses were collected for commercial purposes until a few decades ago, when the activity lost its productivity. The fact that seagrass meadows are now absent from most of the park is used by the 'pollutionists' as the final evidence of the vicious consequences that Sado pollution is having on the park. The park's administration in turn argues that it is the increase in surface seawater temperature that is to blame for the disappearance of seagrass from the area. Other academic sources are of the view that fisheries-commercial and recreational-and recreational boating are the main culprits for the degradation of benthic environments in the Arrábida coast in general, and of seagrass meadows in particular (Cunha 2008). Regrettably, the park admits, it does not have the resources to conduct a dedicated study on the path of pollution from the Sado. Moreover, to this author's knowledge, no other study has so far been produced that could contribute to clarify this matter.

Adequacy of the regulatory regime

There is unanimity among most stakeholder groups that the LSMP is a good thing, and one that is necessary for reversing the path of degradation that was evident in the area (see Gonçalves 2005; Cabral et al. 2008). Simultaneously, similar unanimity has developed in condemning the POPNA as the means to that end. The shared perception is that the current management plan, despite all the restrictions it imposes on human activities, is doing nothing in terms of protection or recovery of ecosystems. This perception may be justified by the fact that, while restrictions on human activities began to be felt from day one, ecosystems' responses not only take much longer, but also are much more difficult to discern. In other words, there is a time gap between (immediate) costs and (delayed) benefits. As mentioned above, it is only recently that preliminary results about changes in the abundance of commercial fishes in the park have been communicated to the public. In the specific case of the recovery of seagrass meadows, the results so far have been mixed, with varied levels of success depending on replanting site, plant origin and method used (CCMar 2010). Since data collection for this study pre-dated the publication of these preliminary results, it is not possible to assess whether these have contributed to changing the perception of the POPNA as ineffective. A recent press release issued on occasion of the annual anti-POPNA maritime rally suggests otherwise (Anonymous 2010).

Apart from the generic mistrust against the POPNA shared by most user groups, each tends to have its own specific disagreements with elements of the management plan. Professional fishermen oppose the spatially-based zoning scheme, arguing that species- or gear-specific regulations would go much further in terms of both protecting biodiversity and allowing the maintenance of acceptable levels of fishing. Fishermen who saw their gear types banned from the park's waters have tried to argue for the selectivity and environmental friendliness of the gear in attempts to return to former fishing grounds. To those fishermen allowed to fish within the park, exclusion from the zones of total and partial protection has meant overcrowding in the complementary protection zone, increasing the potential for conflict over fishing grounds customarily used by others (see Cabral et al. 2008; MARGOV 2009a).

An important cause of discontent among professional fishermen is the park's licensing regime for commercial fisheries. In 2005, approximately 80 licenses were granted exclusively to boats registered in Sesimbra. In the meantime, the park has argued that this number already represents too high a fishing effort for a marine protected area-an argument that probably justifies the fact that no additional licenses have been granted since. But if the effort is excessive with the 80 licenses, why then require the 100 yearly registered catches, a figure deemed too high by most fishermen (see below)? That licenses were granted only to boats from Sesimbra forced a few fishermen from the neighbouring port of Setúbal, who used to fish in the park's waters, to forge registries in Sesimbra in order to have access to the park's new licenses.

As mentioned above, in order to renew their licenses, fishermen must register 100 yearly sales at the local fish auction. Considering that this auction only takes place on weekdays, and discounting both the number of days where weather conditions do not allow for fishing, and the number of catches too small to justify sale at the auction, that figure is not easy to attain. In fact, fishermen complain that it is often impossible. Because licenses will be lost if not renewed every year, and since they can only be sold to direct relatives, fishermen often forge fake sales in order to reach the required number of 100. The common trick is to ask fishermen from other boats-often fishing outside the park-to share some of their catch. That sardines, caught several nautical miles offshore by purse seiners end up being registered as caught by a three metre wooden boat with a 10hp outboard motor does not appear to raise any eyebrows. Again, fishermen blame the park and the POPNA for leaving them no option but to invent such schemes. They claim this to be a necessity in their struggle to continue earning a living from fishing.

All other user groups also oppose the rigid spatial restrictions of the zoning schemes of the POPNA. While some may recognise their value as means of keeping commercial fishing away from certain areas, most complain about having lost access to areas used in the past, be it access to beaches and certain sites along the coast, or sports fishing grounds (see Cabral et al. 2008). Without exception, preference is awarded to regulations specific to each activity instead of the current one-size-fits-all zoning.

Another area of disagreement is the type and extent of violations of the park's regulations. The park's own patrol is but one of the four forces that regularly control maritime activities in the area, the others being the navy, the Maritime Police and the para-military National Republican Guard. Since harmonisation of functions and exchange of information among these different forces is not ideal, the park does not know with certainty how violations of its own regulations have evolved. Their perception is that there has been a decline in the number of offences, but an increase in their levels of sophistication and furtiveness, motivated by stricter and more frequent enforcement. Among users different views emerge. Fishermen who do not use the park's waters will claim that fishing effort in the park has not changed with the POPNA, the only difference being that what was caught legally before is now caught illegally. This is possible, in their view, because surveillance and enforcement, as well as voluntary compliance are non-existent. This concern has been brought to the attention of the president of the parliament by one of its members concerned with how lack of surveillance and enforcement could jeopardise the effectiveness of the POPNA as a conservation instrument (Marques 2009). Those fishing within the park paint the picture quite differently. To them, fishing effort in the park has fallen significantly, not only because commercial fishing was banned from several areas, but also because of overcrowding in others. Violating the park's regulations is seen as risky and expensive, and most do not take the chance. Indeed, an excess of police action at sea is a frequent complaint by fishermen (MARGOV 2009a). In this regard, it should be reminded that much of this action relates more to the enforcement of fisheries regulations than to that of park regulations. Among recreational users of the park, the finger is often pointed at illegal spear fishing that has been completely banned from the park's waters. Albeit recognising a sharp overall decline in this activity-linked, often, to the deterioration of other socio-economic activities in Sesimbra in recent years-spear fishing is said to continue taking place illegally in a highly organised fashion, and actually constituting a regular provider of high quality fish to local restaurants.

There is little evidence about the veracity of these claims. Indeed, the parliamentary question alluded to above was motivated by the inability of its author to find any records relative to surveillance and enforcement of regulations in the LSMP (Marques 2009). 8 However, regardless of their veracity, claims such as the ones described here feed most users' distrust of the current management plan, which renders their engagement with the park and its administration less likely.

   Summary and Conclusion Top

This paper set out to discuss elements of the conflicts that have characterised the relationships between stakeholders of the LSMP. Following a contested consultation process, the approval of the park's management plan in 2005 inaugurated a new regulatory regime that imposes important restrictions on all marine activities that have traditionally been carried out in the area. The perceived impacts of these restrictions on the livelihoods of some of those stakeholders, coupled to a generalised feeling of exclusion from decision-making processes affecting the park are at the root of the discontent with the management plan. This discontent is today not as visible as it was immediately after the plan entered into force, a fact that results more from growing disappointment with, and disbelief in, positive changes, than from improvements in how stakeholders perceive their situation and their relationship with the park. Moreover, there are signs of decreasing cohesion between the various stakeholder groups themselves: positions are increasingly polarised, common platforms have decreased in influence, and even public protests no longer attract the variety of stakeholders that they earlier did.

It is questionable whether or not a prolonged status quo will enable the park's objectives to be reached in the short and medium terms. The park's administration is already experiencing difficulties in fulfilling all its obligations in terms of nature conservation because time and resources all too often have to be assigned to dealing with resource users and their claims. As for the objectives relative to the promotion of socio-economic development in the park, these may equally be compromised if many stakeholders are not convinced of the park's genuine interest in protecting and promoting maritime economic activities. Beyond the more or less positive views held by the different stakeholders, no evidence of socio-economic benefits of the park has so far been produced. Evidence of ecological benefits, on the other hand, has recently emerged. As alluded to above, preliminary data from experimental fishing surveys suggest an increase in catch volumes of commercial fish species, improvements within the total protection zones being particularly marked (CCMar 2010). Consolidated results are expected in 2011, and one may reasonably expect that this new, more robust evidence will help establish the usefulness of the park as an instrument for marine conservation. It may also help dismiss some of the claims for a thorough revision of the POPNA if it shows that the park actually contributes to the recovery of important commercial species. If, and how, this recovery then benefits commercial fisheries remains to be assessed, and this will be an important step for gaining the support of fishermen for the park.

In the meantime, another possibility exists for potentially enhancing fisheries in the LSMP. According to article 46-3 of the POPNA, specific regulations for commercial fisheries may be developed by means of joint legislative orders by the ministries of environment and fisheries. Ideally, this mechanism should enable a faster approval and entry into force of dedicated regulations that could adjust the management plan to certain specific requirements of those activities. Preliminary studies towards two such regulations are currently being undertaken by the park together with the state fisheries research institute, exploring new designs of traps for white shrimp and the use of gillnets for capturing surmulets (Mullus surmuletus).

Finally, it may be necessary to consider ways of improving participation of park users in decisions affecting park management. Perceptions of lack of opportunities for effective and meaningful participation are widespread among users, and, as discussed above, are at the root of much of their discontent with the current state of affairs. With regard to fisheries, it has been shown elsewhere that improving local users' participation in management may enhance benefits from marine reserves (Guidetti & Claudet 2009), and one may speculate that a similar situation would be possible in the LSMP. However, it should be borne in mind that the LSMP-like many other protected areas-also needs to respond to interests other than those of local populations, and that these also need to be considered when taking management decisions. A recent initiative is working on this front, attempting to build a platform for stakeholders of the LSMP to communicate and resolve conflicts. It remains to be seen to which extent it succeeds in reversing the current level of mistrust and disappointment that characterises many of the relationships between those stakeholders.

   Acknowledgements Top

This work would not have been possible without the voluntary contribution of all the interviewees, to whom the author is indebted. The author also wishes to thank Dr Hance Smith for comments to the initial version of this paper, and to Marco Monteiro. Financial support received from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is kindly acknowledged. [35]


  1. This work by Webb et al. is one in a series of studies on marine conservation initiatives in the Philippines, where stakeholder perception data were used extensively to assess the outcomes of those initiatives. The methodology used was initially described by Pomeroy et al. (1997) and subsequently applied by Katon et al. (1999), Agbayani et al. (2000), Baticados & Agbayani (2000), and Maliao & Polohan (2008).
  2. The town of Sesimbra for example, located in the centre of this area, has been one of Portugal's historical fishing ports, and one with above-average value of landings (Ferreira 2000).
  3. Some of these reports can be downloaded from the website of the Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity, at http://portal.icnb.pt.
  4. This management plan was gazetted as a Resolution of the Council of Ministers with the title Regulation of the 'Ordonnance' Plan of the Arrábida Natural Park (POPNA) (Resolução do Conselho de Ministros (RCM) No.141/2005). The Portuguese word ordenamento, herein translated as ordonnance, is commonly used in the context of land and sea use planning to mean "to put or bring into order". It refers rather vaguely to the concept of management proper, the Portuguese word for which is gestão. The POPNA is in essence a sea use plan; however, since it is the only instrument for the management of the LSMP, and in order to use a term closer to the common English terminology, the POPNA will be referred to in this paper as the management plan of the marine park, and not its 'ordonnance' plan.
  5. For a compilation of media coverage of the maritime rally held on the first anniversary of the POPNA, see Clube Naval de Sesimbra (2006).
  6. In this regard, Cabral et al. maintain that the forceful opposition by the fishermen shows that the implementation of the marine park was not done properly, and that socio-economic and cultural aspects of the people affected were not duly considered (Cabral et al. 2008: 55).
  7. In another review, Halpern & Warner (2002) suggest that biological responses inside marine reserves can be rapid (one to three years) and sustained. In a later study, however, one of the authors shows greater uncertainty about the temporal dynamics of species recovery in reserves (Halpern 2003: S127).
  8. The reply by the ministry of the environment gives an account of patrolling actions carried out by the park between 2007 and the first quarter of 2009, leaving out the actions by other surveillance forces (Morbey 2009). Hence it is of limited usefulness for understanding the actual extent and the evolution of marine surveillance in the area. For example, enforcement of fisheries regulations-the frequency of which fishermen most often complain about-is done primarily by the maritime police and not by the park.

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