February 1st to 5th 2016
Olhão, Portugal
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Developing a network of underwater routes at the Algarve

Scientific Exhibition
Natural Resources
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 -
18:30 to 20:00

Rangel, M.O. 1 Gonçalves, J.M.S. 2 Oliveira, F. 3 Costa, C. 4 Erzini, K. 5

1Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
2Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
3Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
4Department of Economics, Management and Industrial Engineering (DEGEI),University of Aveiro, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
5Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal

The use of coastal natural areas for diving activities is growing, leading to increasing concern regarding environmental protection of underwater visited areas. In the Algarve (southern Portugal), under the “EcoSub” project, a network of underwater self-guided routes was designed and implemented as a way to protect the underwater environment by increasing environmental awareness of users. Overall, six snorkelling routes were implemented at popular beaches: “Praia da Marinha” in Silves, “Praia D. Ana”, in Lagos, “Praia dos Arrifes” in Albufeira. Also, four scuba diving routes were designed for some of the most popular scuba diving sites: “B24” off Faro, “Poço” off Armação de Pêra, and “Ponta dos Caminhos” and “Grutas do Martinhal” off Sagres. For each route, after biodiversity mapping using visual census techniques, an underwater path was designed and interpretative sites with specific environmental information were defined. Routes and educational tools were planned according to expected socio-demographic characteristics of visiting divers. Different educational and interpretative tools were used, such as: environmental briefing, in situ interpretative slates, leaflets and guided tours. The routes were implemented in association with several scuba diving companies, beach concessionaires and education/science centres. The project started in 2008 and, since then, routes have been implemented during the summer season and whenever logistic and atmospheric conditions allow it. Overall, the underwater self-guided routes seem to have pleased the visitors, resulting in a satisfactory way of engaging snorkelers and scuba divers in the activity. Moreover, the interpretative and educational tools used seem to promote effectively environmental awareness, leading to the protection of the visited environments.
keywords: 
Underwater routes, snorkelling, scuba diving, awareness, environmental education, environmental interpretation.

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