The Desertas Islands are volcanic islands that are about 3.5 million years old and located 11 nautical miles from the island of Madeira. They have a valuable natural land and sea heritage of huge ecological and scientific value, as well as a unique landscape. There are representative species and habitats that are important for the in situ conservation of its biodiversity. This is particularly true of endemic, rare, and endangered species. The monk seal is one of them and it is the islands’ most emblematic species. In fact, in 1988, these islands were considered to be the last refuge of the species in Portugal and Atlantic Europe and it was this presence that led to increased protection of this site, which was classified as a protected area in 1990.
The islands have just been awarded the European Diploma for Protected Areas by the Council of Europe. They are also a biogenetic reserve and an Important Bird Area (IBA) and are part of the Natura 2000 Network as a Special Protection Area (SPA) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC).