I was recently invited by the AVINA Foundation, to visit Brazil and share my marine conservation experiences with local scientists and activists. During my stay (April 21 -28) I met Jose Truda who leads efforts to protect right whales, Joa Batista, a community leader in El Faro de Santa Marta who struggles to preserve the cultural identity of his community as well as the surrounding natural resources, Jorge Kotas of CEPSUL, a branch of the Ministry of Environment in charge of marine resource conservation, Guy Marcovaldi, the national coordinator of Projeto TAMAR, Brazil’s famous and successful sea turtle conservation program, as well as several of TAMAR’s researchers and biologists who work at different stations, such as César Augusto Da Silva who directs TAMAR’s project in Sergipe, and Gilberto Sales, one of TAMAR’s fishery biologists.
Not surprisingly, our colleagues in Brazil suffer the same issues. Overfishing, unsustainable coastal development, by catch issues, destruction of wetlands for shrimp farming, and shark finning. Even though there are many areas of potential collaboration, there are two fields I feel that PRETOMA could really help out. The first one is Turtle Excluder Devices, or TEDs. In Sergipe, the main problem for turtle conservation is identified as incidental catch by shrimp trawlers. There is an opportunity to work with these fishermen and teach them how to use them. The other field in which we could assist is the development of a national campaign against shark finning.
We could also really use TAMAR’s experience with environmental education and community involvement. At PRETOMA, we are now trying to consolidate a stretch of 30 km of beach which includes 5 nesting beaches. We could use TAMAR’s experience to develop an environmental interpretation center, designed to provide labor opportunities for members of these communities.