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Scientific Work and Future of Selvagens Islands

More than 40 national and international researchers, managers, and technicians, are part of a scientific expedition to the Selvagens Islands, which began yesterday, the 23rd of April, and lasts until the 2nd of May. The expedition is to determine and envision the future of the reserve and is promoted by the Regional Government of Madeira and organised by the Institute of Forests and Nature Conservation (IFCN).

This scientific journey, part of the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the declaration of the Natural Reserve of the Selvagens Islands, which with its enlargement, in 2021, became the largest protected marine area of the North Atlantic, said Paulo Oliveira, an official from the Institute of Forests and Nature Conservation of Madeira.

The ‘Wild 50’ expedition aims to “create a pause, where scientists, researchers, etc can look at the past and try to assess, at this moment, the future of the islands. We are not starting from scratch, but from a baseline of everything that has been done before; from the projects, investments, the work of researchers, and the critical mass created, as we use this knowledge to help mold and secure the future of the islands as a reserve. Furthermore, we can use all the information gained to provide and create better management tools and long-term monitoring plans.”

The work developed on those islands “aims to preserve the biodiversity and natural value of the Selvagens that make them one of the most intact ecosystems in the Atlantic.”

The Selvagens are a group of Portuguese islands that are part of the territory of the archipelago of the Autonomous Region of Madeira and are located 165 kilometers north of the Canaries (Spain), 250 kilometers south of the city of Funchal, 250 kilometers west of Africa and a thousand kilometers southwest of the European Continent.

They are a subarchipelago of volcanic origin, are the southernmost Portuguese territory, consisting of two islands: Selvagem Grande, Selvagem Pequena, Ilhéu de Fora, and adjacent islets, covers an area of 9,455 hectares and is considered a “sanctuary” of nesting of seabirds, in particular, the Cory’s Shearwater, Calcamar, Alma-Negra, and Roque-de-Castro.

The Selvagens are the first representatives of the set of protected areas in the Autonomous Region of Madeira and the first to be classified as a Reserve at a national level, in 1971.

On the 3rd of February 2022, the new regime of the Selvagens Islands in Madeira was approved in the Legislative Assembly of Madeira, which prohibits fishing within 12 nautical miles of the islands, making them a fully protected reserve.

Samantha Gannon

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