Portugal’s Madeira launches Europe’s largest marine protected area

A statement released by the Blue Ocean Foundation said that Madeira would have the largest marine area “in Europe and the entire North Atlantic” with the most comprehensive class of protection, which excludes all extractive activities. [Shutterstock/Balate Dorin]

The regional government of Madeira announced on Monday the creation of Europe’s largest marine protected area through the approval of a new legal regime on the nature reserve of the Selvagens Islands.

A statement released by the Blue Ocean Foundation said Madeira would have the largest marine area “in Europe and the entire North Atlantic” with the most comprehensive class of protection, excluding all extractive activities.

The new legal regime on the Selvagens islands nature reserve “significantly expands the protection of the archipelago’s waters, in the year marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of this reserve”.

The decision is supported by scientific and legal studies and by data collected in expeditions carried out in recent years, the statement said.

“The declaration of this marine area of total protection covers a territory of 2,677 square kilometres, in an area of 12 nautical miles around the Selvagens Islands. It is in this extension that all species existing there are now fully protected from extractive activities, such as fishing or aggregate exploitation,” it stresses.

The statement also said that “strengthening the protection of the Selvagens islands will contribute to increasing marine diversity, genetic richness and reproductive capacity of species, including many with commercial interest”.

“It will also ensure the integrity of ecosystems, contributing to better marine conservation throughout the Northeast Atlantic.

This decision “will also promote the economic development of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, through the valorisation of its natural capital”.

Quoted in the statement, the President of the Government of Madeira (PSD/CDS-PP), the social democrat Miguel Albuquerque, stressed that the region “has been a world reference in terms of nature conservation policies.

The head of the executive hopes that the measure will serve “as an inspiration for other decision-makers to take similar measures towards the preservation” of the oceans.

The president of the Oceano Azul Foundation, José Soares dos Santos, underlines that “the value of the biodiversity of the Selvagens islands is incalculable”, arguing that Madeira is thus strengthening its position in terms of “conservation and valorisation of the ocean”.

This decision was supported by the Blue Ocean Foundation, National Geographic, and the Waitt Institute, which contributed to obtaining data that scientifically sustain it.

(Lusa.pt)

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