Cascais has always been sea-oriented. Its geography with a relatively sheltered cove and the marine richness, which is due to the diversity of fish species, has given Cascais a natural harbour of refuge that became an important fishing centre. It was at sea that its inhabitants found their natural source of food and it was from the sea that this territory, which was granted the town status in 1402, got its name from. Wooden troughs, known as casqueiros, abounded on the well-known beach of Ribeira (or dos Pescadores) and served for the infusion of shells and leaves of lentiscus (a plant) in order to harden the fishing nets. Even today, this local identity associated with the fishing activity still exists.
Over the centuries, the coast between Carcavelos and Cabo da Roca was the scene of important historical events. Dozens of maritime fortifications, which are currently the brand image of the municipality of Cascais, were erected. The maritime fortresses of the former Coast of Santo António, better known as Costa do Estoril, were key elements in the defence of Lisbon and of the Tagus River shoal. There are about 30 km of coastline with a diverse landscape where people can enjoy from the beach to nature and where tourism and maritime activities have great historical relevance. Cascais, «Land of Kings and Fishermen», became part of the royal family’s holiday circuit, from 1870 onwards, thus making it one of the most beautiful and best-equipped places in the country as a seaside resort. Cascais witnessed the appearance of an exotic and ostentatious summer architecture at the beginning of the twentieth century which is now patrimony and an appreciated and striking touristic route of the town. In the thirties, the then known area as Costa do Sol was marked by a panoramic route along the coast – the Marginal Road – that connects it to Lisbon in 20 minutes. Today, Cascais imposes itself as a haven of tranquillity and beauty at the gates of the Atlantic.
Located on the so-called Lisbon peninsula, Cascais is surrounded by sea to the west of the Tagus Estuary between Serra de Sintra and the Atlantic Ocean. The most frequent wind which comes from the north-northeast and which is stronger during summer months is responsible for the cooling of the sea surface temperature thus enriching the water with nutrients and allowing the development of plankton and other fish. For this reason, the Cascais Sea has a high marine and habitat diversity. The extensive rocky platforms, which characterize the coast, serve as shelter for many animals (more than 80 different species) including sea-breams, white breams, gobies, black sea-breams and conger, among others. This biodiversity is protected along two kilometres between the beaches of Parede and S. Pedro do Estoril and a quarter of a mile towards the sea. Cascais has the first Marine Protected Area in Portugal under municipal management – a proof that the Cascais Municipality has technical and political capacity regarding the protection of the oceans.
Considering that to conserve it is necessary to know, the increase of knowledge about the Cascais Sea has been a bet. In Cascais, the quality of life is inseparable from the quality of the sea. Following the European Guidelines for an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Strategy and assuming that policies are needed to promote the sustainability of goods and services and the conservation of aquatic ecosystems in order to achieve good ecological and environmental status, Cascais has implemented a baseline study that collected solid scientific information on the structure and functioning of these ecosystems. An example of this is the coastal monitoring program, AquaSIG, which has been in place since 2008 in partnership with MARE – Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences. This relationship has been particularly close with the Research Hub, the Maritime Laboratory of Guia located in the Forte de Nossa Senhora da Guia, where research in the field of Ecology and Experimental Physiology on the physiological consequences of marine organisms in Climate Change scenarios is carried out. In this area of knowledge, Cascais is also preparing to become a more resilient town by 2030. It was unanimously approved in September 2017 and is based on a process of strategic planning and collaborative and participatory scientific research – Action Plan for Adaptation to Climate Changes – Cascais 2030 – which identifies 13 measures that integrate 80 actions to be implemented by 2030. Developed from climatic scenarios for Cascais, the plan foresees measures that make Cascais a more resilient municipality to Climate Change. This is an ambitious challenge for Cascais, calling for the collaboration not only of the municipality technicians but also of partners and of the citizens themselves.