January 2022 – The Government of the Autonomous Region of Madeira announced that The Savage Islands (Ilhas Selvagens), part of the Madeiran Archipelago – a Portuguese outpost, will extend the marine reserve there to 12 nautical miles around the islands. This development, shared on 29th November 2021, will create the largest fully protected marine sanctuary in the whole of the Northern Atlantic and Europe.

This coincided with the 50th anniversary of the declaration of these remote islets as a nature reserve, situated 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.

All species inside the reserve will be fully protected from fishing or other extractive activities. Researchers from Oceano Azul have teamed up with the Waitt Foundation and National Geographic Pristine Seas to conduct scientific research, which back the needs for a reserve. The waters around these islands are a vital passageway for migrating fish and mammals, while the waters near the islands’ shores provide essential nursery habitats.

The groups stressed the importance of Portugal’s move, given that only under 8% of the ocean is currently protected. It is hoped that this will inspire others in taking similar measures to preserve our oceans.

The Savage Islands are rugged and inhospitable, inhabited only by rangers. They are an important nesting point for the Atlantic’s largest breeding colony of Cory’s Shearwaters and also home to the endemic Selvagens Gecko.

This announcement follows on from the recognition of Porto Santo as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in November 2020, both on land and sea. Porto Santo is the second largest island in the Madeiran Archipelago, 50KM from Madeira’s main island. It is home to around 5,500 people, 2,110 species, including 15 endemic to the island, and 9km of unspoilt sandy beach. The reserve aims to help reconcile human activity with the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.