The waters around the Azores archipelago enclose some of the most important island, open-water and deep-sea natural values in the Atlantic. The Azorean authorities have been pursuing a development model centred on the sustainable uses of those natural resources. Marine protected areas constitute an opportunity to safeguard species and habitats, promote tourism and bring sustainability to small-scale and open-water fisheries.
The aim of the Blue Azores project, is to set a process to establish a network of ecologically coherent and effective MPAs in Azorean waters and promote blue literacy and sustainable marine uses. A network of partners will be mobilized to collaborate in the implementation of this project: NGOs, research institutions, government, fisheries associations, foundations. Scientific expeditions and a strong media component are part of this project, as well as workshops with national and international institutions to help set the scene, gather information, and build and implement the project. Documentaries will be made aiming at showing to the general public the amazing natural values of this region and the main threats posed to them, and increase awareness and support for the establishment of MPAs and support to sustainable fisheries initiatives.
The relatively healthy Azorean marine environment, geographically distant from significant pollution sources and with limited coastal construction, is a significant strength for the establishment of MPAs. Another major advantage is the existence of a legislative process that established the Azorean Network of Protected Areas. The fact that only 1.1% of the Azorean waters are protected also constitutes an opportunity for action. Effective marine conservation is currently weakened by shortcomings in the design of MPAs in coastal and shallow water sea mounts, as they lack the appropriate scientific basis. Moreover, current no-take areas are unlikely to achieve significant conservation goals because they are small and limited in number. The Azorean government is however committed to increase the level of protection in the region and this project aims at achieve that goal.