canary islands

There are eight Canary Islands, but there could have been eleven

The Savage Islands are administratively dependent on Madeira, even though they are closer to the Canary Islands.

On June 26, 2018, the General Commission of the Autonomous Communities of Spain unanimously approved a motion recognizing La Graciosa as the eighth inhabited island of the Canary Islands. This historic decision came six centuries after Castilian ships, during the conquest period from 1402 to 1496, are believed to have arrived on the shores of the Savage Islands, located 165 kilometers away from the Canary Archipelago. These islands were later privately owned by Madeiran families until the Portuguese Government acquired them in 1971, designating them as a nature reserve.

The Savage Islands, part of the Macaronesia region along with the Canary Islands, Azores, Cape Verde, and Madeira, consist of three main islands—Salvaje Grande, Salvaje Pequeña, and Ilhéu de Fora—along with several islets. They are situated 280 kilometers from Madeira, to which they are administratively linked.

There are eight Canary Islands, but there could have been eleven

Covering an area of 2.73 square kilometers, the Savage Islands are home to 150 species of plants and are renowned as an ornithological paradise. Interestingly, the French naturalist Jacques Cousteau once described its waters as the cleanest and most transparent he had ever encountered.


The question arises as to why the Savage Islands are not part of the Canary Islands. Spain and Portugal had long-standing disputes over the sovereignty of this territory. However, according to Airam González del Rosario, the author of “Orgullo Canario,” in 1938, the Permanent Commission on International Maritime Law issued an opinion in favor of Portugal, although Spain couldn’t defend its interests at the time due to being embroiled in the civil war.

González del Rosario further notes that Spain eventually conceded in 1997, primarily as a requirement for NATO membership, and acknowledged Portugal’s rights over the small archipelago. However, the sovereignty dispute persists over the surrounding waters, as Portugal contends that the islands are inhabited by technicians and scientists, while Spain maintains they are uninhabited.

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