Fernando de Noronha is an isolated group of volcanic islands located in the South Equatorial Atlantic at 03° 51' south and 32° 25' west, approximately 215 miles from Cape Sao Roque in the state of Rio Grande do Norte and 340 miles from Recife, Pernambuco. The main islands are the visible parts of a range of submerged mountains . Consisting of 21 islands, islets and rocks of a volcanic origin, the main island has an area of 7.1 square miles, being 6.2 miles long and 2.2 miles at its maximum width. The perimeter measures 37.2 miles. The base of this enormous volcanic formation is 2480 feet below the surface. The main island, from which the group gets its name, makes up 91% of the total area; the islands of Rata, Sela Gineta, Cabeluda and Sao Jose, together with the islets of Leao and Viuva make up the rest. Geological studies indicate that the islands were formed around 2,000,000 years ago.
As occurs on other isolated oceanic systems, the land fauna of the Archipelago Fernando de Noronha presents an exuberant bird life, much richer than the vertebrate groups such as amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, which are represented by only a few species.
The Archipelago Fernando de Noronha hosts ecologic sites ideal for an exuberant marine animal life, due to its geographic location far from the continent and well within the path of the Southern Equatorial Current, as well as the nature of its climate, a fact clearly proven in various experiments. Over the years separate studies have discovered 168 families of mollusks, 72 species of crustaceans, and a large quantity of ornamental fish both native and migratory.
In 1988 approximately 70% of the archipelago was declared a National Marine Park, with the goal of preserving the land and marine environment. It is administered by the IBAMA. Towards its goal research projects are being developed, such as: recording native and migratory bird species both marine and land; studying the behavior and reproduction of the golfinho rotador stenella longirostris; the ecology and reproduction of the crustaceans of the upper, middle and lower coast; shark research and the TAMAR PROJECT (marine turtles). These subjects are offered to the tourists each night at the visitors center of the project, nearby the headquarters of IBAMA.
Today Fernando de Noronha is a model of enviornmental preservation, existing side by side with small scale tourist activities, which are limited by the existing facilities. Permanent works built by the ONG's and Foundations, contribute to the perfecting of the conservational policies.