Protecting the marine prairies of the Sado Estuary, the cradle habitat of the prey of the resident population of dolphins, fish, and shellfish, through the active participation of women from the local fishing community, turning them into true 'Guardiãs do Mar' (Guardians of the Sea), was one of the projects honoured by the AGIR Prize in 2018. Promoted by Ocean Alive, the project had its start boosted by AGIR, a prize created within the scope of REN's Corporate Social Responsibility, which seeks to encourage and support initiatives that respond to social problems, and which now intends to ensure the continuity of the mapping of the prairies and the profession of prairie monitors with the 'Guardiãs das Pradarias' (Guardians of the Prairies).
'The AGIR Prize enabled Ocean Alive to carry out the pilot project of the 'prairie monitors', thus creating a new profession for the fisherwomen of the Sado estuary', explained Raquel Gaspar, biologist, and co-founder of Ocean Alive. The project sought to train two fisherwomen from the Sado estuary, the Sea Guardians, to map marine prairies. The training consisted of the acquisition of knowledge on the use of a GPS and the procedure of contouring seagrass patches, while taking advantage of the fisherwomen's empirical and ecological knowledge.
And the project is proving to be a success. From two, it was increased to five 'Guardiãs do Mar', which made it possible to map the vast majority of the marine prairies in 2019 and in 2020, with the support of a scientific team from the Centre for Marine Sciences of the University of Algarve (CCMAR - Centro de Ciências do Mar da Universidade do Algarve). 122 hectares of marine prairies were mapped, and a map of the location of marine prairies in the Sado estuary was created.
In addition, 'the new profession has brought an income complementary to fishing for the fisherwomen. And the mapping became a kind of safe conduct for the protection of the marine prairies, which guarantee local fishing', explained Raquel Gaspar. 'Making the mapping of marine grasslands available to local entities responsible for managing natural values has allowed certain grasslands to not be destroyed by other human activities', she added.
Marine prairies considered carbon sinks
Raquel Gaspar also mentioned the specific impact that the project has managed to achieve. At a local level, 'the elimination of the use of a mooring cable that was destroying one of the prairies', while at a national level, 'the recommendation to the Portuguese Government to include marine prairies in the next roadmap for carbon neutrality', which managed to bring scientists and the Government together in the decision that marine prairies should be considered as natural carbon sinks and thus be included in the roadmap, were two major victories.
Over these three years, Ocean Alive has continued to work on developing what began with the support of the AGIR Prize. 'We implemented two projects in the same scope (monitoring and mapping of marine prairies) achieved through two applications for funding from the EU ('there is no B planet' project) and National Geographic.
This year, according to Raquel Gaspar, Ocean Alive has launched the 'Guardiãs das Pradarias' programme to ensure the continuity of grassland mapping and the profession of prairie monitors. 'This programme calls for the support of companies and entities to finance the mapping of 14 grasslands that constitute 72 hectares of area and that are exclusively mapped by the guardians', she explained. 'We would very much like them to help us in the dissemination of this programme. We would love to continue what we started with REN's help, as the mapping of the marine prairies was born with the support of the AGIR Prize', pled the biologist.
Remember this project here and all other editions of the AGIR Prizes here