Site details

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Flag of Portugal
5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
Normal Focal Site

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Formigas islets. Photo: J Fontes (ImagDOP)

Synoptic description of site:

Offshore seamount rising from deep sea to the surface, including a small set of islets. Shallow area (<200m deep) covers 3627.5 ha. Located approx. 20 miles off the nearest island.

Extensive description of site:

This is an offshore seamount rising from abyssal depths to the surface, including a small set of islets. The shallow area (<200m deep) covers 3627.5 ha. And is located between Santa Maria and São Miguel islands, approx. 20 miles off the nearest one.

Habitats present:
Littoral  X
Sublittoral XX
Seagrass beds 

Description of fauna and flora:

There are littoral and sublittoral offshore rocky habitats with unique Cystoseira beds in shallow highly irregular volcanic bedrock at the top of the bank. At around 60 meters there is the only registered laminarian occurrence in the Azores. The slope and base of the bank includes deepwater habitats to depths below 1700 m.

Pristiness: High


Area subject to limited and mostly illegal fishing. There are no nearby anthropogenic pollution inputs, dredging, or mineral/ sediment extraction.

Human impact:

There is some exploitation by fishermen. Stronger conservation measures are being implemented to defend the biological communities of the area.


The site is only accessible by boat. Research is to supported by offshore vessel operations such as the ones carried out by the University in previous years.


Commitment and ongoing research:

There is a strong commitment by the Department of Oceanography and Fisheries of the University of the Azores to the continuing study of this area. Several papers and reports dealing with algae, benthic invertebrate, fish and cetaceans have been published or in preparation, resulting from the University expeditions during the last decade. Other papers deal with exploitation and conservation aspects.

Additional Information:

Species and Habitats: MARÉ (EU - LIFE98NAT/P/5275) Technical Proposal for the Management of the Marine SAC of Formigas Islets and Dollabarat Reef. D.O.P. (in progress). CLIPE (PRAXIS XXI - 3/3.2/EMG/1957/95) Final Report, DOP (Horta – 2000). Several papers and reports (Santos et al., 1995. Aquat. Conserv. Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst., 5: 311-354.; Morton et al., 1998; and references therein); (under construction) Maps and photos: formigas/formigas.htm General bibliography: Santos et al., 1995. Aquat. Conserv. Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. 5: 311-354.; (under construction)