Portugal creates Europe’s largest Marine Reserve

Portugal creates Europe's largest Marine Reserve
Amberjacks (Seriola dummerili and S. rivoliana) are highly valued fisheries species that were abundant in the Selvagens. Andy Mann / National Geographic Pristine Seas

In December Portugal announced the creation of the largest marine protected area in Europe.

The new reserve protects 2,677 square kilometers (approximately 1,034 square miles) around the Selvagens Islands, an archipelago in the North Atlantic that sits halfway between the Canary Islands and Madeira. The new reserve expands existing protections put in place for sea birds and moves the world closer to the goal of protecting 30% of land and water by 2030.

“When we say the largest marine reserve in Europe, it’s exciting, because it really is a sense of leadership and ambition,” Paul Rose of Pristine Seas, who led an expedition to the islands in 2015, tells Treehugger. In the context of the 30X30 target, Portugal’s announcement, “shows that we can actually do this,” he added. 

Bursting with Life

Pristine Seas is an underwater exploration project founded by National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala. The organization works to inspire the protection of unique marine ecosystems through expeditions documenting their amazing biodiversity. In the last 12 years, the project has traveled to 31 places, and 24 of them have since been protected. These new reserves cover an area of more than 6 million square kilometers (approximately 2.3 square miles), more than double the size of India. 

The story of how the Selvagens Islands became one of them began in 1971 when the area became the first classified Nature Reserve in Portugal’s history. The volcanic islands are largely uninhabited by humans, but host the world’s largest colony of Cory’s Shearwater seabirds. 

It’s thanks to these birds that the islands were protected, to begin with, Rose says, and they surrounded the islands when Rose and his team arrived there in September of 2015. 

This is an excerpt from an article by Olivia Rosane, originally published by Treehugger.

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