Notification of the Secretariat for the Environment and the Sea about environmental protection in the Azores
Even though the criterion for the transformation of SCI sites into SCZ sites has been met, the Autonomous Region of the Azores shall only advance with their official designation only when the the Land-Management Plans of the diverse Natural Parks of the Azores is published. This approach results from the application of the highest standards of environmental protection that the Region has adopted and pursued in its classified zones. In this regard, the Azores is a the forefront of European Environmental Conservation.
The posture of the Autonomous Region of the Azores in this domain has been exemplary. Besides belonging to the first group that presented sites to be classified in accordance with the Habitats Directive (Macaronésia) , the Azores were the first European Region to propose the classification of an area outside of the Territorial Sea (D. João de Castro) and also the first to present sites located in the deep sea. Indeed, it was under the initiative of the Autonomous Region that Portugal presented, to the EU Commission, a SCI application for the two deep sea hydrothermal springs of Menez Gwen and Lucky Strike on the 15th October, 2008.
However, it should be noted that the meritorious posture of the Azores in this domain extends beyond its adherence to the 2000 Natura Network. Under the auspices of the Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR), which identified a network of maritime areas of environmental importance, the Autonomous Region of the Azores proposed the classification of seven sites, one of which, the Rainbow site, is located outside the Exclusive Economic Zone. At the present time, the Azores awaits the recognition of a zone known as Sedlo, a deep sea ridge. In addition to the aforementioned, there are two areas in the Azores that are classified as Biosphere Reserves, the islands of Corvo and Graciosa. A third area is about to be classified, Flores island. Comparatively speaking, it should be noted that in the rest of the country there is only one area with enjoys such a statute. In the Azores there are 12 areas that were classified under the auspices of the Ramsar Convention. The Government of the Azores is also preparing an application for the classification of a Geopark. If accepted, this application will mean the recognition and classification of more than a hundred Geo-Sites.
It is also for these reasons that the Region was considered, by the National Geographic Traveller, the second best archipelago in the world in terms of sustainable development and the island of Pico one of the best islands to live in the world, by Revista Islands.