The government of Portugal has expanded a marine protected area around the Selvagens Islands, creating the largest fully protected marine reserve in Europe at 2,677 square kilometres.

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.

“We know it is critical to protect the migratory corridors marine life depends on. This newly established marine reserve will ensure the Selvagens archipelago’s impressive underwater biodiversity will be protected and continue to thrive,” said Paul Rose, National Geographic Pristine Seas Expedition Leader.

With the establishment of the Selvagens islands marine reserve, Pristine Seas has supported the creation of 25 marine reserves around the world. Currently, less than 8 percent of the ocean is currently protected, the project aims to work with local communities, governments and partners to protect at least 30 percent of the ocean by 2030 greatly increasing ocean conservation to mitigate climate change and ensure a healthier planet for all.