According to a report in local newspaper “Pubico”, this latest Troika-inspired scheme to raise funds involves licensing the use of all optical aids to birdwatching and also photographic lenses with a focal length of 400mm or more. Full details of the scheme, which will come into force on 1st April, have not yet been announced but it is rumoured that there will be a sliding scale of licence fee based on the magnification of binoculars and telescopes and the focal length of camera lenses. One version has it that binoculars with 7X magnification will require a fee of 20 Euros per annum but that as much as 50 Euros or possibly more will be payable to use a telescope with a zoom eyepiece or a camera with a 600mm lens.
Licences will be available from post offices from 1st May and will be in the form of self-adhesive labels that will be required to be stuck to the instrument in question. Visiting birdwatchers will be required to declare their optical equipment on arrival in the country and licences will be on sale at post offices within all of the airports and at border crossings from Spain. Although the licences will cover 12 months use, they will still be compulsory for those who are here for only a week’s holiday.
It is predicted that there will be strict enforcement, particularly during the first month (before licences are actually available) and that there will be a regular police presence at the region’s most popular birding sites such as Lagoa dos Salgados, Quinta do Lago, the Estação de Tratamento de Águas Residuais at Vilamoura and nearby cafés and bars. Unlicensed optics will also be added to the long list of items that will be looked for by the police who are already deployed at traffic islands throughout the Algarve raising revenue in the form of fines.
A spokesman for the local tourist authority, Carlos Praiabela, is quoted as saying that he was disappointed by the announcement but not surprised. “As a result of our advertising, many more birdwatchers are expected here, particularly from the UK. There are more than one million members of the RSPB and clearly the government has seen the potential to raise taxes from them.”
Athene Coruja of the Associação Português de Observadores de Aves said that her members were dismayed by what they see as an attack on a hobby that is quickly gaining in popularity among local people and hoped that the government might be persuaded to think again about the licence scheme. “Perhaps it could just apply to non-residents”, she suggested.