Site details

(lookup in gazetteer)
Flag of Portugal
5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
Normal Focal Site

Map type: Google Maps  SVG (dynamic)  Image (static)

Aerial view of Vila Franca Islet. Photo: Simão Rego

Extensive description of site:

The area is an ancient submerged volcanic crater 1.2km south of Vila Franca village. The islet comprises a shallow inner lagoon with a diameter of 150 m. It has one main water entrance and several fissures (locally named “Golas”). The fissures are scattered around the islet and play a important role in the water circulation.

Habitats present:
Littoral XX
Sublittoral XX
Seagrass beds 

Description of fauna and flora:

There is a strong zonation of bottom species according to depth. From the splash zone to the subtidal it is possible to observe different dominances of Melaraphe neritoides, Bangia cf. fuscopurporea, Littorina striata, Chthamalus stellatus, Rivolaria atra, Fucus spiralis, Stramonita haemastoma, Mitra nigra, Enteromorpha compressa, Patella aspera, erect Corallinaceae, Paracentrotus lividus, Ophidiaster ophidianus and Gymnogongrus tenuis (Morton, 1990). It is the only place in the Azores where maerl beds have been recorded.

Human impact:

There is a strong impact of tourism in the area. Small-scale fishing activities occur around the islet despite being forbidden by the regulations of the declared Marine Protected Area.


The Department of Biology of the University of the Azores is located in São Miguel Island. This Department has good laboratories that may be used for support of studies in the area. The laboratory is located within one hour driving time from Vila Franca.


Commitment and ongoing research:

There is a written commitment from individual scientists to study the area. There are several papers, reports and books published including the work of Brian Morton, António Frias Martins and Joseph C. Britton.