“The Azores are leading by example. They have already started working within the framework of the previous legislature. The commitment of the Azores as a leading region in terms of sustainability in promotion and fulfilment, before the 2030 deadline, can make up the 30 percent required by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with the creation of Marine Protected Areas”, declared José Manuel Bolieiro.

The leader of the Azorean regional executive took part in the 9th Our Ocean Conference on April 16, held at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Kallithea, Athens.

“Instead of doing it out of obligation, we’re doing it out of strategic choice and even on a timetable that makes us leaders instead of imitators”, said Bolieiro in relation to drawing up the legal framework for the implementation of MPAs in the region.

“I was also pleased to see the representatives recognise and applaud this declaration and commitment made on behalf of the Azores”, he added. “We want to finalise everything by the end of the year, as a result of an observation that, the prestige of the region, greatly elevates the Autonomous Region of the Azores, and the anticipation of timetables that others will imitate”.

In accordance with the President of the Regional Government of the Azores, the executive is preparing the document so that it can be approved by the Government Council and then “submitted to the parliament of the Azores”.

“This is only the first phase of identification, based on scientific data and a framework in which there were many participatory meetings, and everyone was able to take part, all the stakeholders linked to the use of the sea”, he described.

In addition, there is the need for work to be done “permanently, with consultation between the stakeholders, those interested in the business and income of the blue economy, as well as the respective implementation”.

José Manuel Bolieiro recalled that the sea surrounding the Azores constitutes more than half of Portugal’s exclusive economic zone and includes “some of the most important marine ecosystems in the North Atlantic”.

He mentioned the Blue Azores programme, in partnership with the Oceano Azul Foundation and the Waitt Institute, which “leaves no one behind in the community”, particularly in the fishing field.

“Once finalised, the new network of Marine Protected Areas will cover almost 300,000 square kilometers and will be the largest in the North Atlantic, providing Azoreans with a healthy ocean and a thriving blue economy – this is our vision, this is our commitment”, said the President of the Government.

Greece is hosting the 9th “Our Ocean Conference”, which will address some of the key challenges related to the ocean, such as biodiversity loss, climate change, unsustainable fishing, marine pollution, and unsustainable maritime transport.

MPAs are geographically defined as areas where human activity is limited in order to protect natural or cultural resources and preserve them over time.

One of the main objectives of the Blue Azores programme is to protect 30 percent of the Azorean Sea by revising the Azores Marine Protected Areas Network, meeting the targets set in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the European Biodiversity Strategy 2030 and the National Strategy for the Sea 2030.