The area is defined by the Ria Formosa (which covers five municipalities), a natural river system, structuring the landscape and ecological systems, which gives the Sotavento its own characteristics.
The Eastern Algarve is home to the largest wetland in southern Portugal, 11,000 hectares large stretching along approximately 60 km of coastline between Ancão (Loulé) and Manta Rota (Vila Real de Santo António). It forms a lagoon-estuarine system with a wide area of marshes, islands and channels protected by robust sand ridges, which form two peninsulas (Ancão and Cacela) and five barrier islands (Barreta, Culatra, Armona, Tavira and Cabanas).
The two main protected areas here are
The FLAG membership includes the municipalities of Alcoutim; Castro Marim; Vila Real Santo António; Tavira; and Faro e Loulé, the Portuguese sea institute, the University of the Algarve, the Algarve fishing producers association, the Institute of employment and vocational training, five local fishermen’s associations, the organisation of Algarve fish producers, the Culatra island residents association, the national association of fish preservers, the centre of sciences of the sea of the Algarve and the Monte Gordo bay wetsuit trawler association, the Portuguese aquaculture association, the centre for the professional training in fisheries and the sea and the trade and transformation of traditional sea salt association.