The most isolated archipelago in the North Atlantic, the islands of the Azores are some 2,500 kilometres east of New York and 1,600 kilometres west of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. Discovered and settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century, these remote islands, perched atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, boast spectacular volcanic landscapes with extraordinary biodiversity.
The Azores’ first marine protected area, at Faial, was declared in 1980. There are now more than 60 such protected areas throughout the archipelago, and offshore. With these areas ensuring that marine biodiversity and geological hot spots such as seamounts and geothermal vents are protected, many species of whales and dolphins continue to find food and sanctuary in the clear waters of the archipelago. The highly regulated whale watching industry, led by long-standing and and dedicated operators, is well managed and protective of the animals that provide the economic foundation of the industry’s existence.
In the Azores, whalers never adopted the destructive industrial-scale mechanised killing practised elsewhere. They hunted only with handheld harpoon and lance from small open boats. As a result,
Two adolescent female sperm whales swim purposefully towards a larger female ABOVE