//Madeira creates Europe and North Atlantic’s largest protected marine sanctuary

Madeira creates Europe and North Atlantic’s largest protected marine sanctuary

Less than eight per cent of the world’s oceans are protected, but Madeira’s Savage Islands are now part of the largest fully protected marine sanctuary in the whole of the Northern Atlantic and Europe.

Part of the Madeiran Archipelago, the remote Savage Islands (Ilhas Selvagens) were declared a nature reserve 50 years ago. Located 280km south of Madeira’s main island, off the coast of northwestern Africa, this nature reserve was one of the first protected areas in Portugal.

An existing marine reserve has been extended 12 nautical miles around the islands. All marine life within the area will be fully protected from fishing and other extractive activities. The waters around the Savage Islands are a vital passageway for migrating fish and mammals, while the water near the islands’ shores provide essential nursery habitats. The inhospitable islands, only inhabited by rangers, are also an important nesting site and breeding colony for birds.

The announcement follows the recognition of Porto Santo, the largest island in the Madeiran Archipelago, as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in November 2020, both on land and sea. It’s home to 2,110 species including 15 endemic to the island. The reserve aims to reconcile human activity with conservation and increased biodiversity.