Lampedusa is part of a group of islands known as Pelagies between Sicily and Tunisia. It is unlike other regions of Italy and actually lays on the African shelf. The Pelagian Islands are located in the Gulf of Gabes in the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, with its 20 square km, is the largest European island South of Sicily. It is 205 km South of Sicily and less than 90 km from Tunisia. The stretch of sea that separates it from Africa is no more than 120 m deep, where on the contrary between Malta and Sicily the sea exceeds 1000 m of depth. Its coasts are high cliffs in the North and low and jagged in the South. There are many breathtaking views from the island as the water is crystal clear in many of the secluded bays.
Lampedusa occupies an important position in the Mediterranean. It has been touched by many civilizations, including the Greeks and Romans which is seen in the architectural influences.Many artifacts have been discovered on/near Lampedusa. In 1878, Lampedusa and Linosa became a municipality. This was the period in which the island economy reached its peak. However, it was followed by periods of extreme isolation, which led to a lag in modernization. Since the 1980's the drastic increase in tourism has changed the standard of living and the seafaring traditions have been affected.
Since 1990, the University of Rome and WWF Italy has lead a conservation and rescue program for sea turtles. The sustained efforts have become an attraction for thousands of summer tourists. The sea turtle has become the icon of Lampedusa. Interestingly, there have been recent waves of immigrants from Africa. They have been rescued from the sea by the Italian coast guard. Thousands of them have passed through Lampedusa on their journey hoping for a better life. In 2010 the coast guard opened the Sea Turtle Rescue Center as an emergency shelter. Their stay may have been necessary but heavily devastated much of the equipment and facility.
Marine Protected Areas:
The important natural value of Lampedusa is protected by the establishment of a Marine Protected Areas, instituted by the Ministry of the Environment in 2003. They are managed by the City of Lampedusa and Linosa. A Nature Reserve was set up by the Region of Sicily in 1996, which designated Legambiente as its managing body. The reserve (Riserva Naturale Orientata) aims to protect and conserve the natural value of the environment. It was classified as a site of community interest for the presence of plant and animal species living in rare habitats threatened by extinction. It covers an area of about 320 acres along a pristine stretch of the southern coast of Lampedusa. It runs from Cala Greca up to Vallone dell'Acqua, and ends with a road to the north. The reserve includes the iconic Rabbit Beach (Spiaggia dei Conigli).