Brazil's biggest coral reef gets protective boost

Posted: 10 June 2009

The Brazilian government has officially declared a new conservation area that will help protect one of the world's most important coral reefs, and benefit thousands of people who depend on the nearby fisheries to make a living.

A remote operated vehicle (ROV), Abrolhos bank, Brazil
A remote operated vehicle (ROV), Abrolhos bank, Brazil
A remote operated vehicle (ROV) surveys the deep reefs on the outer reaches of the Abrolhos bank. CI uses cutting edge science to map areas of the bank that remain unexplored. Photo © CI/Sterling Zumbrunn
The Cassurubá Marine Extractive Reserve is located in Abrolhos Bank, the Southern Atlantic Ocean's largest and richest reef system, off the southern coast of Brazil's Bahia state. The new protected area stretches over 100,687 hectares (245,663 acres) of mangroves, estuaries and coastal habitats that are home to a vast number of crabs, sea turtles, shrimp, fish and shellfish - including species under threat of extinction - but was threatened by plans for Brazil's largest shrimp farm.

Young boys in the town of Caravelas
Young boys in the town of Caravelas
Young boys in the town of Caravelas. The growing population of the coast of Bahia increasingly depends on the sustainable management of local fisheries. Photo © CI/Sterling Zumbrunn
Cassurubá is home to 95 per cent of the Abrolhos Bank's mangroves, which makes it a key nursery site for many fish species of ecological and economic importance in the region.

The creation of the Cassurubá Marine Extractive Reserve, in which Conservation International (CI) and partners from the SOS Abrolhos Coalition played a key role, also means that around 20,000 fishermen who depend on these marine species will benefit from the environmental services offered by the new reserve.

A Snowy Egret (<em>Egretta thula</em>) sits atop the mangrove forest.
A Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) sits atop the mangrove forest.
A Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) sits atop the mangrove forest. CI supported the creation of the extractive reserve to protect the mangroves outside of Caravelas. Photo © CI/Sterling Zumbrunn
The so-called "extractive reserves" allow the sustainable use of natural renewable resources, and the participation of traditional communities in the management process, combining human well-being and biodiversity conservation. It is the result of long standing requests by environmentalists and local communities due to threats by coastal real state development and over-fishing.

"Abrolhos is the most important fisheries region in Bahia state, and the Cassarubá estuary is a key nursery site for these species" said Guilherme Dutra, biologist and director of the Marine Program at Conservation International (CI-Brasil). "The creation of this reserve will help maintain marine ecosystems, local fisheries and traditional cultures."

Source: Conservation International, June 10 2009 -