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H. Calado, K. Ng, C. Lopes, L. Paramio – de Dezembro de 2011 - Introducing a legal management instrument for offshore marine protected areas in the Azores - The Azores Marine Park – publicado em Environmental Science & Policy

The Azores Marine Park (AMP) proposal, developed by the Geographical Information and Territorial Planning Centre (Centro de Informação Geografica e Planeamento Territorial; CIGPT) at University of the Azores (Ponta Delgada), was submitted in 2010 by the Azores Environment Agency to the Azores Parliament and will be implemented upon approval. This is the most recent effort towards establishing a Portuguese legal entity for consolidating and creating a coherent Azorean network of offshore marine protected areas (MPAs). The proposal included seven existing designated MPAs: four offshore habitats located within the Azorean Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ; Banco Dom João de Castro seamount, Sedlo seamount, Lucky Strike hydrothermal vent field and Menez Gwen hydrothermal vent field), one located beyond the Azorean EEZ (Rainbow hydrothermal vent field), and two Marine Important Bird Areas (North of Corvo Offshore, and North of Corvo and Faial Offshore). These MPAs had been nominated by various conservation organizations and site-specific legally binding recommendations have been developed. AMP recommendations were created for each site according to strict protection objectives and management objectives adapted from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Protected Area Management Categories. Since its submission, three additional high seas MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction and subject to Portuguese continental shelf extension claims (Altair seamount, Antialtair seamount and an area of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge north of the Azores) were nominated in September 2010 by the OSPAR Commission. These MPAs have subsequently been proposed for inclusion in the AMP. With intensifying efforts to protect biodiversity, an increase in offshore Azorean MPAs is likely. Consequently, the AMP will likely extend its spatial limit to include new high seas MPAs and develop legally binding regulations for each new MPA as an on-going process. The full-scale “one-stop agency” AMP is envisioned to provide a representative offshore MPA network for the Azores that will protect all major ecosystem features in relation to their habitats and species, at an appropriate scale, within and across each bioregion.

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