Madeira archipelago, which is integrated in the biogeographical sub-region of Macaronesia, has a total terrestrial area of approximately 796.8 km2 and is formed by the island of Madeira with 736 km2, the island of Porto Santo with 42.26 km2, located to the NE of the archipelago, and two other groups of uninhabited islands: the Natural Reserves of Desertas and Selvagens islands.
The Autonomous Region of Madeira has an historical relationship with the sea and unique natural conditions for the development of sea-related activities. The archipelago is characterized by narrow and steep insular platforms, presenting, in the southern area, a small slope that occurs until 100 m depth. The bathymetry presents a parallel distribution relative to the coastline, and the 100 m isobath does not distance itself more than 3 km from the coastline.
Madeira has a well-established tourism sector, a long tradition in the fisheries industry, and a growing and significant progress of aquaculture. These consolidated sectors, along with the vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ – 442 248 km2), and the privileged location at the the confluence of the main trade, recreational and tourism routes, grant a geo-centrality with high economic potential, and provide the conditions to face the challenges of the future, in which the realization of the potential of the sea may dictate the levels of economic development.
The population and economic activities are concentrated mainly along the coast, with the blue economy accounting for about 10.3% of the regional gross value added (GVA) for the years 2016-20172. The cluster of “Recreation, sports, culture and tourism”, accounted for more than three quarters (76.8%) of the “Sea” GVA, followed by clusters “Ports, transport and logistics” and “Fishing, aquaculture, processing and commercialization of its products”, with 10.3% and 9.0%, respectively. The region has also a strong growth potential regarding emerging sectors. Madeira has a small but rising biotechnology sector, it has an environment suitable for blue renewable energy, such as wave and wind energy, and it has a desalination unit in Porto Santo.