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Credit: Atos/Ifremer
Horta, Azores, Portugal, 20 June 2002
WWF honours government initiative on designating the first deep-sea marine protected areas (MPAs)

Credit: Atos/IfremerThe Regional Government of the Azores has agreed to designate the hydrothermal vent fields Lucky Strike and Menez Gwen as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within Portuguese waters.

An international stakeholder workshop was held in Horta, Azores on 18 -19 June 2002 to initiate the development of a management plan for both sites and to integrate stakeholders in the designation process from the very beginning.

Following this workshop, WWF is celebrating the designation of Lucky Strike and Menez Gwen as an important precedent in the conservation of the marine resources of the North-East Atlantic as a Gift to the Earth (GttE) in Horta, Isle of Faial, Azores today. Read the speech given by Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF's Endangered Seas Programme, at the GttE ceremony.

With this initiative, the Secretary of Environment of the Regional Government of the Azores, Dr Helder Marques da Silva is acting ahead of international obligations such as OSPAR Convention Annex V and the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive, encouraging the development of a representative network of Marine Protected Areas in the North-East Atlantic.

Hydrothermal vent Credit: Atos/Ifremerfields are unique features of the deep-sea occurring along the ridges of the world's oceans and have just been discovered in 1977. Based on hydrogen sulfide oxidizing bacteria they support an ecosystem of its own, that differs not only from the surrounding barren environment but even from vent field to vent field. Up to 300 species have been identified so far with 95 % being new discoveries and further investigations of structure and function of these bizarre communities are still underway.

Lucky Strike and Menez Gwen are the second hydrothermal vent fields in the world's oceans to receive protection status after the Canadian Hot Vent field Endeavour. The designation and management plan aims to conduct and coordinate human activities such as scientific research sustainably.

WWF hopes that the initiative of the Regional Government of the Azores will motivate further actions to protect and manage important sites elsewhere in the offshore and deep-sea environment of the North-East Atlantic.

For further information read and/or download the

WWF feature story "Oases on the sea floor"

WWF Gift to the Earth profile and factsheet "Azores protects deep-sea hydrothermal vents"(3,5 MB)

WWF flyer "Lucky Strike and Menez Gwen, Azores - the first deep-sea marine protected areas in the North-East Atlantic" (3,4 MB)

WWF briefing "Lucky Strike - A Potential Marine Protected Area" (392 KB)

Related links:

Department of Oceanography and Fisheries (DOP) - University of the Azores (UAç)

Interridge - an initiative for international cooperation in ridge-crest studies