One of the main constraints to the enlargement of the Natura 2000 network to marine environments is the lack of research on marine habitats and species far from the coast. Few organisations or institutions have the necessary means to undertake such work. The designation of SCIs has thus been affected by the lack of relevant data on specific species such as cetaceans and seabirds.
An Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is an area stretching to 200 nautical miles from the coast, over which a state has special rights to marine resources. Portuguese EEZs include one of the highest abundances of common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in Europe and are an important wintering ground for the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus).
A total of 7 SCIs (55 400 ha) and 7 SACs (58 500 ha) have been created in the Portuguese coastal and marine environment. Nevertheless, political and logistical difficulties have led to a significant delay in drawing up further SCI proposals in costal and marine areas. The availability of specific information needed for the implementation of appropriate management measures for cetacean and seabird species is also quite low.
The MarPro project aims to successfully implement the NATURA 2000 network for the target cetacean and seabird species and their habitats throughout the EEZ of mainland Portugal. It will reduce conflicts between fisheries and the target species in order to ensure compliance with the Habitats and Birds Directives.
The project will propose new Natura 2000 marine areas for Portugal. It will also develop management plans for the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), common bottlenose dolphin and Balearic shearwater.
MarPro will promote understanding between relevant authorities, scientists, fishermen, new marine industries (such as energy producers) and the general public in order to achieve consensus in the implementation of the marine Natura 2000 network. It will evaluate the complex interaction of open-sea fishing on the target species and implement good practice solutions concerning by-catch and fish depredation to improve sustainability.
The project will create cost-effective, sustainable and long-term surveillance and monitoring instruments for analysing and interpreting the evolution of the conservation status of the target species and their habitats.