Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Defence Minister Helena Carreiras at the Presidency headquarters in Ponta Delgada, the leader of the regional executive (PSD/CDS-PP/PPM) recalled that national defence is assuming "today, more of" an environmental protection role.

"Between the idea of preserving biomass, biodiversity, the water column and our sea, we need, in addition to the normative, to have the means to monitor compliance. This is the expectation and the great challenge that is also launched for the present and future in the role of the Armed Forces," he said.

Bolieiro warned of the "need for resources" to ensure the "surveillance and monitoring" of the "sea of the Azores and the future protected marine reserve areas for the defence of biodiversity".

Over the past few months, the Regional Government has promoted meetings with various entities to define the protected marine areas, including the Federation of Fisheries of the Azores, the Azores Sea Observatory, the Regional Directorate of Environment, the Blue Ocean Foundation and the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds.

José Manuel Bolieiro has insisted that the Azorean Government aims to have 30 percent of marine protected areas in the region's sea by 2023, a "more ambitious" target than that set by the European Union.

On 6 September, the regional leader "welcomed" the reinforcement of resources for the Armed Forces in the archipelago, which was announced by the Minister of Defence.

On Monday, Helena Carreiras said that air base number 4, in Lajes, Azores, should have, by the end of the year, a second crew to operate the EH-101 helicopters, which carry out search and rescue missions.

The Portuguese Air Force has two EH-101 Merlin helicopters at air base number 4, but only one fixed crew.

The allocation of a second crew is a long-standing demand of the regional authorities.

After the meeting with Bolieiro, Helenas Carreiras considered that the Azores' geostrategic relevance is "growing", reinforcing that the "threats" come from the east and south and reiterating the importance of protecting the maritime space.

"I believe that never before have we seen the relevance of the Atlantic and our Atlantic position as a strategic factor, of potential for the country, also in view of the challenges we have to face in this Atlantic space," the minister pointed out.