The objective of the party’s legislative initiative is to protect the habitat of seahorses by “limiting economic and recreational activities and strengthening enforcement actions in the Ria Formosa natural park”.

The party also argued that it was essential to “identify pockets of pollution” and to “deter illegal fishing with the punishment of violators”.

Census data carried out by researchers in the Ria Formosa, which extends along the east coast of the Algarve and covers the counties of Loulé, Faro, Olhão, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António, points to a very sharp decline in the number of seahorses in this protected area over the past 18 years.

“According to biologist Jorge Palma, from the University of the Algarve, the results of the census requested by the Oceano Azul Foundation revealed that the Ria Formosa was only home to about 100,000 seahorses in 2018, in contrast to the two million seahorses that were accounted for in 2001, representing a 90 percent decrease in the population,” PAN said in a statement.

The legislative initiative from PAN calls for “the Government to classify seahorses as a protected species and to create sanctuaries in the Ria Formosa to aid their recovery”.

The party warned that pollution and illegal capture are two of the main threats to the species and that the seahorse may “be associated with a trafficking network aimed at the Asian market”. They added that “operations and the seizure of nets and traps have proved insufficient in the protection of the species”.

“Given this identified high risk, it is evident that the conservation of the seahorse species is compromised, thus requiring greater protection at a national level,” said PAN.

PAN also wants the government to “assess the ecological condition of the habitats in the Ria Formosa Natural Park” and to study the hypothesis of “limiting economic and recreational activities” in order to “reduce anthropogenic pressure” and to “reinforce regular monitoring actions in the Natural Park”.

These actions would serve to “identify pockets of pollution, deter illegal fishing and punish offenders, thereby ensuring compliance with existing legislation,” he added.