THE AZORES

Scuba Diver Australasia + Ocean Planet - - Feature:marine Sanctuaries Around The World - By Wade and Robyn Hughes

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

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