The Azores archipelago constitutes an Autonomous Region of the Portuguese Republic located in the mid-North Atlantic Ocean. The archipelago is composed of nine volcanic islands and several coastal and oceanic islets, totalling an emerged area of approximately 2 344 km2, with a coastline spanning for about 1 020 km.
The archipelago constitutes the westernmost point of Europe and the most isolated group of islands in the North Atlantic, approximately 1 949 km from the east coast of North America and 1 380 km from the west coast of mainland Portugal. The Azores archipelago is oriented in a northwest–southeast direction, in consonance with the main tectonic features that influence the geodynamics of the region, extending for approximately 600 km.
The nine islands are organized into three groups according to their geographical proximity: the Eastern Group (Santa Maria and São Miguel islands, including the Formigas islets); the Central Group (Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial islands) and the Western Group (Flores and Corvo islands).
The seafloor surrounding the islands is characterized by a rich and diverse topography comprising the island slopes, numerous seamounts, deep fracture zones, trenches, abyssal plains and a considerable extension of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This renders a wide diversity of coastal, oceanic and deep-sea habitats, hosting an array of species and supporting varied ecosystems such as hydrothermal vent fields, coldwater coral reefs and gardens and sponge aggregations.
The vast maritime space surrounding the Azores archipelago, corresponding to a total area of almost 1 million km2, holds a multiplicity of natural resources and has increasingly been viewed as a strategic vector, where blue economy plays an important role in the socio-economic development of the region. In addition to more traditional maritime sectors, such as fisheries, ports and shipping, including passenger and cargo maritime transport, activities related to scientific research, as well as coastal and maritime tourism and recreation, with emblematic examples such as whale watching, diving and nautical sports, also represent a considerable portion of blue economy in the Azores.