Case Study 8 centres on the richly biodiverse Faial-Pico Channel, a 240km² Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Azores, Portugal, an EU Outermost Region. Despite increasing international, Azorean, and local protection for the area, biodiversity in the MPA continues to be lost. Numerous human activities at place in the Channel are placing pressure on the ecosystem, especially fishing and swiftly increasing tourist numbers. Fishers and tourism operators (including diving operators), value the biodiversity hotspots within the Channel, but have different objectives for how they should be managed. Managing the Channel is complicated by multi-level and overlapping responsibilities, with policy development and enforcement split across the local-level Nature Park of Faial and Nature Park of Pico, and the Azores-level Regional Directorate for Sea Affairs, who must consider local, Azorean, Portuguese, and EU policy targets. Additionally, as evidenced by the policy process that resulted in the 2016 increase in fishing regulations in the channel (Ordinance no. 53/2016), stakeholders such as recreational fishers and tourism operators are not well integrated into policy development. What is more, there is no formal MPA management plan for the Channel that clearly establishes targets, roles, timelines, monitoring, and enforcement.

Objective and research questions: The objective of this case study is to apply the AQUACROSS Assessment Framework (D3.2) approach to study the Faial-Pico Channel MPA. By doing so, the overarching aim is to understand how applying the concept of Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) can lead to new and alternative management approaches for the improved protection and preservation of aquatic biodiversity. The case study will also investigate how scientific and stakeholder knowledge can be utilised effectively to inform a participatory process as part of an ecosystem-based management approach to MPAs. In addition to testing the AQUACROSS Assessment Framework, this case study also aims to answer the following research questions: What processes or governance structures for an MPA can best enable ecosystem-based management? How can scientific research, including information on economic costs and benefits and their distribution among stakeholder groups, be utilised in a participatory process to help achieve effective and balanced MPA management? What tools are best suited to communicate such knowledge and information to a diverse group of policy makers and stakeholders?

Approach: To answer these questions, Case Study 8 is working closely with local stakeholders. On the basis of a detailed stakeholder assessment to identify all key actors (including institutions, organisations, and individuals) that are relevant for MPA ecosystem-based management measures , a series of stakeholder interviews (by phone) have been conducted to understand the current policy and management approach, use of information, and identify relevant ecological and socio-economic data on the Faial-Pico Channel MPA, including data on habitat quality, ecosystem services and associated economic costs and benefits (e.g. tradeoffs between beneficiaries). To provide stakeholders with insights into how the future delivery of ecosystem services might change under alternative management approaches and how this may impact local communities, different potential future scenarios based on existing research will be co-developed and validated with stakeholders. These scenarios will consider different management options and the impacts these have on socio-economic and ecological outcomes, with a particular focus on ecosystem services – and the inevitable tradeoffs between differing beneficiaries.

Solutions: Stakeholders have proposed two main solutions to protect Faial-Pico Channel biodiversity and the sustainability of ecosystem services, whilst at the same time balancing the potentially competing demands of the tourism and fishing sectors. Both suggestions focus on the governance of the Channel. The first proposal is the establishment of a stakeholder working group to manage and monitor the MPA, with representation from all stakeholders. Stakeholders have also suggested developing a formal Faial-Pico Channel MPA management plan. These solutions will address key issues of compliance, monitoring, incorporating stakeholder views, and integrating scientific and stakeholder knowledge into decision making. They also reflect stakeholders’ recognition of shared reliance on the long-term sustainability of the local ecosystem, their interdependence, and their desire to cooperate to solve these solutions together. Changes in spatial fishing restrictions within the Faial-Pico Channel may also be considered, such as increased spatial restrictions.

Lead partner organisation: 

Ecologic Institute is the lead partner organisation for Case Study 8.

Cooperating Institution & Representative: 

Azores Regional Directorate of Maritime Affairs (Direção Regional dos Assuntos do Mar, DRAM)  - DRAM is a cooperating institutional partner for Case Study Eight: Ecosystem-based solutions to solve sectoral conflicts on the path to sustainable development in the Azores. DRAM is the government department entrusted with maximizing the benefits of the Azores’s maritime resources whilst continuing to protect their environmental quality. This includes the planning and management of protected maritime areas and other biodiversity projects, adapting to climate change, and facilitating access for fishing and tourism. DRAM and Case Study Eight are represented on the SPBTT by Gilberto Carreira.