Environmental aggressions unfolding in Ericeira World Surfing Reserve, NGOs claim.


Photograph: ARR


A vast natural land sitting on a protected site of Ericeira’s World Surfing Reserve has been stripped of its natural flora and obliterated of invaluable public-owned landscape, claim non-governmental organisations.

On a press-release, SOS – Salvem o Surf and Amigos da Baía dos Coxos Association (AABC) – two independent organisations known to overlook the environmental preservation of the Reserve – raised questions about the lawfulness of a massive clearing of a green rug that covered the valleys between the historical Ribeira d’Ilhas beach and the Coxos bay.

According to both NGOs, the vegetation of the valleys has been ravaged for means of private development. One of the cases reported (see image on top of the article) has been spotted in Coxos’ beach valley, where a private landowner cleared the surrounding vegetation to expand his property whilst building a 10-metre high wall that blurs the valley’s distinctive attributes.

Ribeira d'Ilhas e Cavalinho - ph. DR

Further South, on the edge of Ribeira d’Ilhas, long baptized the Portuguese surfing Mecca, a landowner uprooted several hectares of wild land and blocked the access to the pathways enjoyed by many trekkers, mountain bikers and surfers. The fauna and flora, as seen by the photo above, has been vastly wiped out.

The valleys are breeding sites for the Mediterranean and Atlantic flora that is quintessential to Ericeira and Portugal’s West Coast and its wild trails are often met by glimpses of the famous green and red Ocellated lizards (or Sardão in Portuguese), snakes, fire salamanders, birds of prey, among other species. With the ongoing devastation of that particular territory, the local species are now facing a grim destiny with the potential of reshaping Ericeira’s ecosystems for years to come.

In 2011, Ericeira was awarded the denomination of World Surfing Reserve by the international program launched by Save The Waves Coalition, which aims to protect global surfing habitats and its surrounding natural environment. Falling under the protective wing of the award are the waves, beaches and natural sites stretching about 4km – from Empa (or Pedra Branca surfing break) all the way to São Lourenço. Ribeira d’Ilhas and Coxos’ are two of the strongest assets of this protected strip of coastline.

Both SOS and AABC exhorted the environmental authorities to explain the legality – or unlawfulness – of the construction sites that are redefining the natural and touristic values of the Reserve. But amid the efforts to halt the constructions, and hopes of the landowners reforesting the area, it will take a very long time for the ecosystems to fully recover their original configuration.

“It’s essential to preserve the natural landscapes that are pivotal to the World Surfing Reserve of Ericeira, which is unique in Europe and strategic for Portugal”, said the joint press-release. “It’s important to create the necessary legal mechanisms to prevent further similar harmings to the public domain.”

Esta publicação também está disponível em | This article is also available in: Portuguese (Portugal)