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The rocky Ilhas Selvagens are the focus of Europe's largest marine reserve, Source: Visit Madeira

Remote Madeira islets to become core of largest marine reserve in Europe

Remote Madeira islets to become core of largest marine reserve in Europe

This was announced on account of the 50th anniversary of the Ilhas Selvagens as a nature reserve

On 29 November, The President of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque announced that the Ilhas Selvagens Nature Reserve will be extended in scope thus converting it to the largest marine protected area in Europe. This coincides with the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the small and remote islets as a nature reserve – the first such in Portugal.

The islands are Portugal’s southernmost point

The remote archipelago consists of two main rocky islets, which are located about halfway between Madeira and the Spanish Canary Islands, all of which are in a section of the Atlantic Ocean. This whole section of the ocean, although geographically closer to Africa, is European territory.

The small archipelago is uninhabited, save for a couple of wardens who man the scientific research stations there studying the fauna, flora and environmental conditions. The name Ilhas Selvagens literally means ‘Wild Islands’ in Portuguese, as they conserve what is considered to be the most pristine Macaronesian biosphere.

On the occasion, Miguel Albuquerque emphasized that he hopes that this example of environmental protection can "serve as an inspiration for other decision-makers to take similar measures, towards the preservation of our oceans".

The Madeira President also said that the reinforcement of the protection of the Selvagens Islands will contribute to the increase of marine diversity, genetic richness and the reproductive capacity of the species, including many that are of commercial interest.

The declaration of the extended marine area of ​​total protection covers a territory of 2,667 km2, in an area of ​​12 nautical miles around the Selvagens Islands. It is in this extension, which means that all animal and plant species that exist there are now fully protected from extractive activities, such as fishing or the exploitation of earth minerals.

This initiative has the direct support of the Oceano Azul Foundation, National Geographic and the Waitt Institute, entities that contributed to obtaining data that, among other things, scientifically supports the decision for protection expansion. 

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