The Marine Park of the Azores includes a network of 11 offshore marine protected areas (MPAs) that were put under protection and special management in recent years. These offshore MPAs are outside 12 nautical miles (app. 22 kilometres) away from any of the islands. The Portuguese exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extends to 200 nautical miles (app. 370 kilometres) from the islands and four of the MPAs are located even further away (on the extension of continental shelf zone), being protected by Portuguese law.
The general aim of creating the Marine Park of the Azores is to protect and restore biodiversity and habitats that have been negatively affected by human activities, or might be negatively affected in the future.
Five MPAs protect four hydrothermal sites: Banco Dom João de Castro (2 areas), Menez Gwen Hydrothermal Field, Lucky Strike Hydrothermal Field and Rainbow Hydrothermal Field; three MPAs protect seamounts (Sedlo, Altair and Antialtair), two offshore areas are protected because of their importance for seabirds (the Corvo Oceanic MPA and the Faial Oceanic MPA) and the largest area of all protects the Mid-Atlantic Ridge North of the Azores (MARNA).
The effort to protect and manage resources in a sustainable way is ever growing and new offshore areas are continuously being added to the list. During the duration of this project, more than 5 new offshore MPAs have been designated!