Terceira Island lays in the east of the central group. It is relatively large, just under 400 square kilometres and has a population of about 56000. Angra do Heroísmo is the largest city on the island and the historic capital of the Autonomous Region of the Azores. In 1980 a violent earthquake struck the city and after tremendous reconstruction work it was listed as a UNESCO heritage site in the mid 80’s.
Large parts of Terceira Island are under special protection and management. A total of 20 classified areas are included in the Terceira Nature Park, covering about 22% of the landmasses of the island. From the 20 classified areas six are marine protected areas (MPAs) that have been put under protection for resource management (particularly for fisheries). These areas are Quatro Ribeiras, Costa das Contendas, Ilhéus das Cabras, Cinco Ribeiras, Baixa da Vila Nova and Monte do Brasil. These MPAs are multi-use areas allowing for sustainable uses of marine resources.
In addition to these, there is another MPA that is not included in the Terceira Nature Park, but is protected as an archaeological site (Parque Arqueológico Subaquático da Baía de Angra). This site is a fully protected MPA, where all extractive activities are forbidden.
The protected marine and coastal areas are an ideal spot to significant populations of the common tern (Sterna hirundo) and Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis) that find their way here to nest year after year.
Especially the Cabras Islets are a great spot for underwater activities with a variety of fish species and other vertebrates and invertebrates. As with the other island of the Azores the waters are frequented by different species of whales, dolphins and sea turtles.