Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands

The Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands have many cold-water coral reefs mainly composed of Lophelia pertusa. The reefs are usually found at depths greater than 1000 metres, and are part of the belt of cold-water coral reefs stretching from Norway to West Africa. Averaging 3000 m in depth, the waters around the Azores also contain seamounts and hydrothermal vents that are being proposed as candidates for World Heritage Park status.

In September 2005, EU fisheries ministers agreed to ban trawling on the sea bed around Madeira, the Azores and Canary Islands to save their unique coral reefs from destruction. EU fisheries Ministers also agreed to ban the use of gillnets and other entangling fishing nets at depths greater than 200 metres in these areas. The cold-water coral reefs around these islands, in waters of Spain and Portugal, had been in danger of this damaging fishing practice since 1 August 2004, when the EU's fishing fleet gained access to Azorean waters between 100 and 200 nautical miles, without first agreeing limits on their activity and fishing gear.