Brazil is on the verge of changing marine conservation history in the South Atlantic. After lagging behind other developing countries in Marine Protected Area coverage, with only 1.5% of its jurisdictional waters under some sort of protection, the Brazilian government has opened public comments on proposals to establish a mosaic of MPAs around the oceanic archipelagos of St. Peter & St. Paul Rocks and Trindade & Martin Vaz, covering approximately 900,000 square kilometres and making Brazil´s MPA coverage jump to some 21% of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Both archipelagos are biodiversity hotspots and their surrounding waters harbour many endemic, vulnerable and endangered species, including whales, sharks, sea turtles and many pelagic species severely depleted by industrial overfishing.
The mosaic includes proposals for two core no-take areas of approximately 109,000 km² of Natural Monuments, strictly no-take areas where fishing, mining and any extractive activity would be totally prohibited, whereas in the surrounding multiple-use zones fishing would be strictly regulated. A coalition of Brazilian environmental NGOs and Tourism sector stakeholders, however, is pushing for the no-take zones to be greatly expanded.
Brazil has made numerous commitments to protect marine biodiversity to date, including with the Promise of Sydney, the 2017 Ocean Conference, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14. The proposals for the new large mosaics of protected areas are also related to (and will strongly need) the Brazilian Blue Initiative.
The President of Brazil, Michel Temer, is expected to make a decision in early March, after the public consultation period ends. Any organisation or individual interested in submitting expressions of support for these MPAs can do so by writing to Consulta Publica, Gabinete Pessoal, Ministro Defesa, as well as to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, emphasizing that the expansion of Integral Protection no-take MPAS is most welcome and necessary to safeguard marine biodiversity.
At the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, as part of the Promise of Sydney, Brazil committed to:
- 1. Bringing the biodiversity protection from 1.5% to 5% (equivalent to 175,000 km² of the Brazilian marine territory as protected areas);
- 2. Bringing under enhanced biodiversity protection at least 9,300 km² of marine and coastal areas (with regulated sustainable use practices); and
- 3. Identifying, designing, and preparing for implementation at least two financial mechanisms able to contribute to the long-term sustainability of MCPAs.
The result would be:
- Expansion of protected area coverage of Brazilian coast, territorial sea and Economic Exclusive Zone to 5%;
- Safeguarding sensitive and unique habitats off the South American Atlantic coast;
- Development and deployment of a system-wide biodiversity monitoring system for all Marine Protected Areas;
- Incorporating PA management with natural resource extraction agents (especially oil and gas) and the Brazilian Navy – sharing responsibilities and scaling up the conservation results of this potential partnership;
- Revisiting and updating the biodiversity priority conservation areas map for coastal and marine ecosystems;
- Improving fisheries and other natural resource extraction regulations on coastal and marine ecosystems.