The government of the Canary Islands wants the seas off the west coast of Africa to be declared a sanctuary for cetaceans, the order of mammals to which dolphins and whales belong.
They would like to see the protected area cover all of the Macaronesia islands – the collective name for the five volcanic archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira and Salvages (Portuguese), the Canaries (Spanish) and Cape Verde (independent).
The proposal will be discussed at an International Conference for the Protection of Dolphins in Tenerife in November.
The conference is one of a series of worldwide events being held to mark the International Year of Dolphins, with representatives attending from Spain, Portugal and African countries.
The dolphin campaign is an initiative of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
It has the enthusiastic backing of the Loro Parque Foundation in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, which has launched a range of events aimed at raising the interest of school children in whale-watching trips and scientific research into marine mammals, and to motivate students to support conservation and protection.
The President of the Loro Parque Foundation, Wolfgang Kiessling, is backing the Canarian government call, emphasising the need for a large protected area in the Atlantic Ocean to ensure the survival of dolphins and small marine mammals.
Ahead of the November conference, the Canarian government is consulting various interest groups such as boat owners, tourist operators, protection groups and environmental organisations on this and other conservation activities.