Local Fishermen Key to New Reserve

July 2006

Brazil's protected area agency recently declared a new 100,000-hectare reserve in the northeastern state of Bahia that will secure a sustainable future for the area’s threatened species and the approximately 2,300 families who live there.

Local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Instituto de Conservação de Ambientes Litorâneos da Mata Atlântica (Ecotuba) has been working in the area with the agency (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis), community representatives, local businesses, and other organizations to help establish the reserve with support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

CEPF has supported the project as part of its strategic direction of improving management of existing and future public protected areas through targeted civil society efforts in the Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot.

The Reserva Extrativista Marinha de Canavieiras links vital marine, mangrove, and coastal forest habitats, forming an important part of the hotspot’s protected area network. The reserve is also home to growing populations of Endangered loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles.

Ecotuba approached the Associação de Marisqueiros de Canavieiras, a local fishermen’s organization, in 2001 and suggested the idea of an “extractive” reserve where local people would have limited access to fishing and other natural resources, enabling them to preserve their livelihoods while also conserving their habitat.

“The mangrove mud crab is a mainstay of the local economy here,” Ecotuba’s Anders Schmidt said. “So when the fishing communities saw how a reserve could help them protect their future, they were very much in favor of it.”

Ecotuba is now working with local and regional stakeholders to establish a deliberative council for the reserve. A management plan will then be developed to set fishing quotas at a sustainable level.

Ecotuba previously received two small grants from the Institutional Strengthening Program in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, which is funded by CEPF and managed in the Central biodiversity conservation corridor by the Instituto de Estudos Sócioambientais do Sul da Bahia.

“Support from CEPF over the last five years helped us grow as an organization and contributed to a solution to these complex interrelated problems that benefits the whole ecosystem – including the people who live here,” Schmidt said.

For more information, contact , marine biologist, Ecotuba.