Since 2015, the dispute with Spain over which country was legally entitled to the Ilhas Selvagens, 300km from Funchal in Madeira, has been settled in Portugal’s favour.
Now, the rocky natural paradise and valuable nesting point for several bird species – including the endangered Cory’s Shearwater – is the boundary of Portugal’s exclusive economic zone, and as such is to be protected by state-of-the-art radar.
Projecto Costa Segura is already delivering tons of material to the outcrop of rock 150km from Spain’s Canary Islands and adjacent with North Africa, and the future will see two maritime police agents stationed there, alongside the two natural park wardens who have been doing their jobs in isolation for almost three decades.
One of these is Fernando Vieira, 51, who has overseen all the recent comings and goings on what he must consider his own island with mixed feelings.
“I do not want to say bad of anyone,” he told Correio da Manhã this week. “But the protocol is such that I prefer the island when just the two of us are here.”
CM photographed Vieira stirring a large cauldron of food as colleague Jaques de Mata appeared to be doing the washing up.
The idea behind extending Portugal’s highly-sophisticated system of radar vigilance to the islands is to “reinforce the safety of navigation and sovereignty of the State in the sea”, adds CM.
Later this month, a visit to the islands is promised by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.