Site details

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5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
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Surveying the Bank by SCUBA. Photo:

Synoptic description of site:

An underwater volcano apparatus located 40 miles offshore the two main islands of the Azores, with intense shallow-water hydrothermal active vents.

Extensive description of site:

This is one of the few known shallow-water hydrothermal vent fields in the world; an underwater volcano located 40 miles off the two main islands of the Azores (S. Miguel and Terceira). Sublittoral offshore rocky habitats include unique shallow (-13 and -40 m) and mid-water (-200 m) hydrothermal vents with bacterial mats. Sediment and boulders occur inside the crater (around 45 m) and around the volcanic apparatus. The slope and base of the bank includes deepwater habitats to depths below 1000 m.

Habitats present:
Sublittoral XX
Seagrass beds 

Description of fauna and flora:

Conspicuous species of the area include Mobula tarapacana, large Seriola spp. and Kyphosus sp. specimens, and high density schools of Sphyraena viridensis. Benthic species include algae, such as Codium elisabethae (high densities around shallow vent areas), Zonaria tourneforti or Sargassum sp., and several invertebrate species.

Human impact:

Professional fishing is allowed in the area and is showing an increasing effect on some target species.


Research is supported by offshore vessel operations such as those of the University in previous years. The neighbouring islands of Terceira (45 nm to NW) and São Miguel (45 nm to SW) can serve as bases for operational structures, taking advantage of the University of the Azores and other facilities (harbour, nautical and diving clubs, harbour warehouses, etc.).


Commitment and ongoing research:

There is a written expression of interest from the Department of Oceanography and Fisheries of the University of the Azores, with an outline of planned activities. Reports dealing with bacteria, algae, benthic invertebrate, fish and marine birds have been published or in preparation, resulting from the University expeditions during the last 4 years. Other papers deal with bio-geochemical aspects of the hydrothermal community.

Additional Information:

Species: Maps: General bibliography: see