New project to repair and protect the Berlengas archipelago’s rich ecosystem
Only 30 people live in the Berlengas archipelago off the Portuguese coast, yet there is a lot of activity to report from these small islands. Included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), Berlengas is known to be home for several species of marine birds and for hosting a diverse ecosystem. Unfortunately, the beautiful archipelago and its surrounding waters have suffered during the recent economic conditions; despite the efforts of national authorities to conserve the fragile ecosystem, the area is rapidly deteriorating.
In June 2014, the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA, BirdLife Partner), joined a partnership with the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forestry, the Municipality of Peniche and the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Together, they planned an integrated combination of sustainable development, responsible tourism and conservation of natural resources at the Reserva Natural das Berlengas, aiming to become a model of good management of a Protected Area. The resulting Life + Berlenga Project was launched that same month with an initial investment of €1,380.000, 50% of which came from European Commission funds. The project aims to restore the natural resources of the archipelago and, at the same time, to benefit the local communities whose livelihoods depend on tourists visiting the island.
The project will include plans for sustainable exploitation of natural resources, action to avoid incidental seabird bycatch in fishing gears, control of mammalian species introduced by humans and control of invasive plants which threaten the most iconic bird species, such as the Common Guillemot.
There will also be a strong advertising campaign using the latest technologies to promote Berlengas as a top European tourist destination.
The Berlengas archipelago receives more than 200,000 visitors a year, notably because of the rich biodiversity it hosts, which makes the islands a natural paradise to be treasured.