Sado Estuary, Portugal
Sado Estuary, Portugal
Working with coastal communities to transform behaviors for ocean protection.
We have partnered with Ocean Alive, Portugal’s first non profit cultural cooperative dedicated to ocean protection, to begin the conservation of 1 hectare of seagrass meadow in the Sado Estuary of Setúbal, Portugal.
Led and operated by women, this seagrass protection and community education project aims to safeguard a naturally emerging seagrass meadow in Cambalhao Bay. Unlike a conventional restoration project, the objective is to mitigate the detrimental impact of anchoring and poor navigation and protect the meadow.
A fragile ecosystem
The seagrass meadows in Portugal have been rapidly depleting, resulting in a scarcity of marine life and adversely impacting the fishing community, especially the fisherwomen, leading to unemployment and devaluation. This depletion has also contributed to the decline of the resident dolphin population.
Seagrass meadows offer several ecosystem services that benefit human well-being. Referred to as the "lungs of the sea," one square meter of seagrass can produce 10 liters of oxygen each day through photosynthesis. Seagrass leaves also absorb nutrients and slow the water flow, trapping particles of sand, dirt, and silt. Unfortunately, seagrass meadows have been disappearing globally due to human activities, and their decline threatens the vital ecosystem services they provide.
Seagrass serve as vital nurseries for fish and invertebrates, providing a safe environment for their eggs, larvae, and juveniles to mature. They are also rich in plankton, small invertebrates, and algae, making them important feeding areas for many species.
Seagrass meadows are also a critical component in mitigating climate change as they are one of the most effective natural blue carbon sinks on the planet. They are extremely efficient at carbon sequestration, averaging ~830 Kg of carbon stored per hectare per year, which is about 30 times higher than that of terrestrial forests.
We will be collaborating with the Keepers of the Sea, a group of women from the fishing community along the Sado River who work to protect seagrass meadows. Currently, there are 18 Keepers of the Sea, who play a vital role in encouraging their peers in the fishing community to make behavior changes that will help eliminate three major threats to seagrass meadows: litter from shellfishing, anchoring on the seagrass meadows, and destructive fishing.
Operated by Ocean Alive, this program empowers women in the fishing community to become leaders in ocean protection. As a result of this program, women from the local fishing community are able to develop new professions such as marine education guides, awareness agents, and seagrass monitors. They take an active role in fighting climate change and promoting sustainability, while advocating for policies that prioritize environmental best practices.
Aim 1: Conduct research and mapping at the seagrass meadow
We will conduct comprehensive research and mapping of the seagrass meadow to gain a better understanding of its value and the best ways to protect it. This aim is critical to our overall goal of safeguarding the meadow's future.
Aim 2: Recruit seagrass guardians from maritime touristic enterprises
We will work with local maritime touristic enterprises (MTs) that use the seagrass meadow for navigation and anchoring to recruit ambassadors, or "Seagrass Guardians." Ocean Alive educates the staff of these enterprises on the value of the meadow and teach them good practices to protect it. By doing so, we aim to foster their engagement and contribution to future mapping and protection of the area from other recreational users.
SeaTrees is collaborating with Ocean Alive to protect a naturally emerging seagrass meadow at Cambalhao Bay in Portugal's Sado Estuary by engaging local "Seagrass Guardian" ambassadors. This project will fund the official scientific mapping of the meadow and the associated costs of community engagement, education, and training. The goal is to mitigate the harmful impacts of anchoring and navigation in the area.
This project provides long-term employment for the local community. This in turn drives other Sustainable Development benefits.
* Thanks to the support of our generous brand partners, this project has been fully funded. If you'd like to support one of our other great projects, send an email to email@example.com and let us know what lights you up the most!