Story | 28 Mar, 2018

Brazil increases marine protection to over 25%

By Cláudio C. Maretti, Chico Mendes Institute (ICMBio)

Brazil is advancing consistently in its marine nature conservation and natural resources sustainable use strategy, as the Brazilian President announces it will protect over 920,000 km2, including mangroves. The government’s efforts will improve participation, partnerships and projects through the Brazilian Blue Initiative.

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Photo: ICMBio

The President of Brazil, Michel Temer, has announced an increase in marine protection by approximately 920,000 km2[i] in two large mosaics of marine protected areas. A declaration for even more protected areas including Amazon mangroves and coastal sea is expected later this month. With those protected areas announced and expected yet to this March, Brazil will achieve around 25% marine protection, reaching almost 1 million square kilometres (around 980 thousand km2).[ii]

The Brazilian Blue Initiative is a strategic coordination framework to promote partnerships, projects and other actions to enable Brazil with the best means possible for the implementation of marine conservation and a sustainable development strategy to best manage the existing and new coastal and marine protected areas.

A good protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, particularly through protected areas and their sustainable use by local communities, is fundamental to achieve the global objectives and targets and national commitments, such as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (particularly  Goal 14), the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (particularly adaptation, but also mitigation), the 2020 Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (particularly targets 11, 12 and others), the rights recognition and support for local and traditional communities, as well as Brazilian commitments in the UN Ocean Conference (SDG 14, New York 2017), and the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014.

Large mosaics of marine protected areas

The announcement of the two large oceanic mosaics of marine protected areas, around the Archipelagos of São Pedro and São Paulo, and Trindade and Martim Vaz, is the culmination of long-term research, priority definitions[iii], technical proposals, public hearings and a beautiful national and international movement in favour of the proposed protection[iv]. The proposition process is technically led by the Chico Mendes Institute (the Brazilian federal protected areas agency) and politically led by the Ministry of Environment, led by Minister José Sarney F. The process has been co-led by the Ministry of Defence and the Brazilian Navy through the promotion of important scientific knowledge through the years.[v]

Those two marine protected areas will conserve ecosystems that were less protected in Brazil, and contain fish species in different levels of extinction risk, including the critically endangered Atlantic Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara), Black Grouper (Hyporthodus nigritus) and the endangered shark Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), besides two species of marine turtles, including the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and important presence of the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas).

Those two areas are key to maintain and recover fish stocks, including of tuna, groupers, sharks among others. For the sustainability of food security, the entire world needs to make strong efforts in the recovery of fish stocks. Large marine protected areas, including important no-take zones, can be crucial in that. Protected areas are the most efficient mechanism to protect nature and its biodiversity ever created by humankind, although not enough by themselves.

Those potential protected areas would significantly increase the level of conservation of the specific Trindade and Martin Vaz Islands, Sao Pedro and Sao Paulo Islands and the Eastern Brazil Marine Ecoregions, to well above the international target of minimum 10%.[vi]

Mangroves, protected areas and local fishermen communities

Another very important effort in the Brazilian strategy is to strengthen conservation of mangroves, including through protected areas and local artisanal fishermen communities. Brazil has the second largest national mangrove area, including what is probably the largest, most important and best conserved continuous area, in the Amazon coast mangroves, under influence mostly from the Amazon River estuary – which Brazil is proposed to be recognised internationally by the Ramsar Convention. The country already protects a very large proportion of its mangroves (more than 85%). But there are yet some key areas to be protected. Five of them, besides one enlargement proposal, are under study and negotiations now, which probably will lead to three of them to be declared in the coming weeks. (As mentioned above and in the notes.)

Brazil is also very interested in strengthening the management capacity of the existing mangrove protected areas, as well as the capacity of local, artisanal fishermen communities to improve the sustainability of their fisheries and the quality of their life. We estimate that about 800,000 fishermen are active in the Brazilian coast, with a large proportion directly or strongly dependent on the mangroves or nearby sea (including more than 100,000 in federal sustainable use reserves[vii]). The strategy also includes the restoration of mangroves.

New targets for ecological representation

In terms of the next steps, strong attention will be given to the implementation of the existing and the upcoming protected areas, including strong science-based and social sector participation. But for ecological representation, biological needs and sustainable economic activities, we need to take a step further. Although Brazil is now in the process of reviewing priority areas for marine conservation, future conservation proposals include the eastern coral reefs (mostly the Abrolhos Seascape), some key areas for sharks and rays, including in the south (such as in Albardão), important marine area under the influence of the Amazon estuary (such as Lixeira), and the north-eastern submarine mountains.

Brazilian Blue Initiative – towards beyond 10% effective conservation

To have good conditions to achieve and go beyond the minimum of 10% conservation in Brazilian marine jurisdictional areas, the Brazilian Ministry of Environment (MMA) and Federal Protected Areas Agency (ICMBio – Chico Mendes Institute) have been talking since 2016 with other government institutions (including Inter-ministerial Commission on Marine Resources, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Secretariat of Aquiculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication, Ministry of Defence, etc.), Brazilian society and national and international partners  to build an umbrella strategy –the Brazilian Blue Initiative– and promote specific and concrete projects and actions.[viii]

Science has been progressively demonstrating that marine protected areas do work, for biodiversity conservation, for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, to contribute in the protection of indigenous and non-indigenous traditional communities and to support economic activities, such as fisheries and others. But they do need conditions for its good implementation and consolidation into a good management, particularly marine protected areas, including good integration into de landscape and with local societies.

The Brazilian Blue Initiative is a coordination strategic framework to promote partnerships, projects and other actions to enable Brazil with the best means possible for the implementation of the marine nature conservation and sustainable development strategy and best manage the existing and new coastal and marine protected areas.

Message from the President of Brazil

In his video message at the Ocean Summit, President Michel Temer has expressed the Brazilian commitment to marine conservation and the sustainable use of marine natural resources. He announced the upcoming creation of two large mosaics of oceanic protected areas. He highlighted the efforts in promoting social participation and the establishment of partnerships and search for projects and means, through the Brazilian Blue Initiative, to enable us to implement this strategy. 

“My greetings to the participants of this year's World Ocean Summit. Brazil fully supports your efforts for the preservation of marine biodiversity and the sustainable use of ocean resources. This is a cause that unites us.

I would like to take this opportunity to share a piece of news that fills us with enthusiasm.
In Brazil, we are about to create two vast protected areas in our seas: one in the archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo, in the Brazilian Northeast; and another on the Trindade and Martim Vaz Islands on our east coast. These are beautiful areas, which are home to invaluable natural heritage.

Including these new protected areas, we will protect about 25% of Brazilian waters, far exceeding the targets we committed to at the United Nations. This measure will help safeguard our rich biodiversity, and renews our commitment to a more sustainable world.

Preserving the seas requires the engagement of all. In Brazil, we launched the Blue Initiative. With it, we are building partnerships with local communities, companies, international organisations, and, finally, with all of society, to join efforts to benefit the environment.

It is with this spirit that, as of 19 March, we will be hosting the World Water Forum in Brasilia. We will receive leaders and experts from around the world who will address this challenge we all face: the sustainable management of water resources. They will all be very welcome.

Thank you for your attention, and I wish you a great summit.
Michel Temer, President of Brazil, March 05th, 2018


[i]  Equivalent to 92 million hectares (ha), composed by

- mosaic 1, around Trindade and Martim Vaz Archipelago with 47 million ha, composed by the Environment Protection Area (equivalent to the international IUCN category V) with 40 million ha, and the Natural Monument (equivalent to the international IUCN category III) with 7 million ha; and

- mosaic 2, around São Pedro and São Paulo with 45 million ha, composed by the Environment Protection Area with 41 million ha and the Natural Monument with 4 million ha.

All numbers are approximated due to the final detailed design yet in process.

[ii] Brazil has already good conservation levels in the coastal ecosystems (40+%), particularly mangroves (85+%). Even the Brazilian Territorial Sea has a relatively good protection coverage (20+%). But the protection is progressive lower as the area is further distant to the coast, with only 1.5% protection.

Current marine protection in Brazil 5,304,049 hectares (4,797,625 ha in the Brazilian Territorial Sea, 12 nautical miles, and merely 506,424 ha in Brazilian Exclusive Economic Zone - EZZ), plus the two large mosaics (92,108,216 ha) and the expected (for March) mangrove-marine extractive reserves (504,600 ha), the total goes to approximately 97,916,865 ha (including Brazilian Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone - EZZ). With more 5,064,297 ha of protected coastal ecosystems the total goes to 102,981,162 ha.

There is a PowerPoint on the proposed new protected areas and the Brazilian Blue Initiative, besides other details of this Brazilian strategy in and in pdf in

[iii] Including nationally, through Brazilian prioritization process, and internationally, proposed by Brazil, through the CBD EBSAs.

‘Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs)’, are important areas defined internationally by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), under proposal by the countries (the convention parts – see The intention is to support national and international decisions to conserve those areas, including through United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS – see  

Here below is a picture with the EBSAs already defined around Latin America (from, including the ‘Atlantic Equatorial Fracture Zone and high productivity system’, which includes São Pedro and São Paulo Archipelago, and the ‘Abrolhos Bank and Vitória-Trindade Chain’, which includes the Trindade and Martin Vaz Archipelago.

[iv] This is result of about a year and a half of strong work, only in this last phase, concentrated further as it advanced, with technical proposal and political leadership by the Brazilian Ministry of Environment (led by Minister José Sarney Fo.) and Chico Mendes Institute (Brazilian Agency for Federal Protected Areas – led by President Ricardo Soavinski), on the basis of recommendations of hired experts, with very important participation of the Brazilian Ministry of Defence and our Navy, but strongly based on a beautiful movement bringing together independent experts, civil society, scientists, activists, celebrities, public institutions, good politicians, visionaries, strategists of partnerships, project conceivers, etc. etc.!

The Brazilian movement called #ÉaHoraDoMar has led a campaign including experts, activists, celebrities, civil society leaders, among others, leading to dozens of letters and dozens of thousands of emails to Brazilian authorities, besides strong social media action. This includes and complements efforts by governmental institutions and civil societies organizations in developing proposals to increase and improve conditions for the implementation and good management of those protected areas.

A sample of the campaign can be seen in the video in

Several organizations have been very supportive so far. Even under the risk of not naming properly all of them (and I ask everybody here to help complement the list and the collaborations), I mention Conservation International (CI), WWF, World Bank, GEF, UNDP, Germany, UN Environment among others in the search for projects, “Rede Pró UCs” (the Network for PAs), Baleia Jubarte, Divers for Sharks, CI among others, in campaigning, strengthened by the arrival of Pew Charitable Trusts, and strong support and interactions with SOS Atlantic Forest, WCPA and IUCN, WCS, and several, many others.

[v] Brazilian Navy has had important roles in those two areas, not only for securing their pristine conditions –capacity now to be enhanced with the proposed partnership with ICMBio–, but also for co-leading, with the science promotion agency CNPq, of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication, on the respective research programmes –Pro-Arquipélago and Pro-Trindade–, implemented mostly by Brazilian researchers, which results shall be important in helping guide the planning and the management of those areas, when protected.

[vi] The higher-level biogeographical units related to them would consequently increase their conservation coverage as well. Furthermore, the large Equatorial Atlantic and South Central Atlantic Gyre Pelagic Provinces, surrounding the ecoregions, would also increase their levels of protection.

Based on

- Spalding, M. D. et alii. 2007. Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas. BioScience, vol. 57, No. 7, pp 573-583. (

- Spalding, M. D. et alii. 2012. Pelagic provinces of the world: a biogeographic classification of the world’s surface pelagic waters. Ocean & Coastal Management, vol. 60, pp 19-30. (

[vii] Protected areas equivalent to the international IUCN categories VI and V.

[viii] The Brazilian Blue Initiative has been developed in the last year based on several partners collaborations and projects work. To date, the Brazilian Blue Initiative has the support and participation of the World Bank, WWF, Conservation International (CI), CONFREM – the Confederation of Fishermen in Extractive Reserves, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its World Commission on Protected Areas, and FUNBIO (Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity), among others, based on the work of projects Mangroves of Brazil (ICMBio and UNDP, for MMA) and Marine Protected Areas (MMA, World Bank and FUNBIO, with ICMBio and others), both with support from GEF, as well as dialogues for interaction and possible partnerships with Rare, Pew Charitable Trusts, GIZ, Germany, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UN Environment (UNEP), Norway, SOS Atlantic Forest, Boticário Foundation (FBPN), WCS, Ocean5, and Oceana among many others.