November 29, 2021—Today the government of Portugal expanded a marine protected area around the Selvagens Islands, creating the largest fully protected marine reserve in Europe at 2,677 square kilometers. The Selvagens Islands are a small archipelago in the North Atlantic located midway between Madeira and the Canary Islands.
National Geographic Pristine Seas studied the Selvagens Islands in September of 2015 in partnership with the Oceano Azul and the Waitt Foundation. During their expedition, the team conducted what was among the first underwater surveys of the ecosystem—from the shallows to the depths—and filmed the biodiversity around the islands. Using high-tech equipment including midwater pelagic cameras and drop cams, the team was able to assess pelagic communities and deep-sea habitats in addition to the shallow flora and fauna observed during dives. From their observations of the ecosystem, they found that open waters around the islands were a vital waypoint for migrating fish and mammals in the Atlantic while the nearshore waters provided important nursery habitats.