Site details

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5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
Normal Focal Site

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NE coast detail. Photo: L Quinta (ImagDOP)

Synoptic description of site:

Sinuous rocky coast (approx. 19 Km wide) marginated by a large system of near shore islets.

Extensive description of site:

This area is located in the western-most island of the Azores archipelago. The coastal area is defined from Santa Cruz to Ilhéu da Gadelha (approx.: 39º30'N, 31º10'W). It is a sinuous rocky coast (approximately 19 Km-long) fringed by a large system of near-shore islets.

Habitats present:
Littoral  X
Sublittoral XX
Seagrass beds 

Description of fauna and flora:

The site comprises a set of intertidal and sublittoral rocky habitats known to support high marine biodiversity, including intertidal pools and a large number of enclosed bays, submerged caves and islets. Conspicuous species include large specimens of Epinephelus marginatus. The bottom is covered by algae but in the steeper areas it is possible to observe phoronids and other less common species. Occasionally, during the night, it is possible to observe Loligo forbesi. It is an important area for the reproduction of several protected marine birds, such as Calonectris diomedea borealis, Sterna hirundo and Sterna dougallii.

Human impact:

There is some impact caused by the limpet collectors and fishing using forbidden gears such as scuba equipment.


Research can be conducted on field trips, taking advantage of local facilities (harbour, nautical and diving clubs, fish auction warehouses, etc.). The island is served by regular flights from other islands in the archipelago.


Commitment and ongoing research:

There is a written commitment by the Department of Oceanography and Fisheries of the University of the Azores for the continuation of studies in this area. A few papers and reports dealing with algae, benthic invertebrates, fish and seabirds have been published or are in preparation, resulting from the University expeditions during the last decade. Other papers deal with exploitation and conservation aspects.

Additional Information:

Santos et al., 1995. Aquat. Conserv. Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst., 5: 311-354.; Morton et al., 1998; and references therein); General bibliography: Santos et al., 1995. Aquat. Conserv. Fresh. Mar. Ecos. 5: 311-354.