On World Environment Day, 2009, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva traveled to the fishing community of Ponta de Areia, Caravelas, in Brazil’s Bahia state. There, he celebrated the creation of the Cassurubá Extractive Reserve.
Said President Lula, “The more we preserve, [the] more chances we have to develop…. Today, when the tourists visit a city they want to know the beauties there are to be seen. What we provide creating this reserve is the warranty that in this city the nature will be preserved for our children and grandchildren, so that they can continue, if they want, with the professions of their parents. Because the crabs are [going to] still be there.”
Protecting Fisheries, Mangroves, and People
The “Resex,” or reserve he is referring to is a sustainable-use protected area that comprises an area of 100,687 hectares (245,663 acres) of estuaries, mangroves, and marine environments between the cities of Caravelas and Nova Viçosa on Brazil’s south-central coast. Close to 1,000 families of fishermen and shellfish collectors depend on the region’s natural resources. Cassurubá is also a key part of the Abrolhos marine protected areas network, which protects the most important reef area in the Southern Atlantic. There, another 20,000 fishermen make their living.
FEATURE: An Eye on Abrolhos
Extractive reserves are designed to harmonize the exploration of renewable natural resources, the social and cultural well-being of local communities and the conservation of biodiversity. A successful reserve offers a region’s people a voice in their own future, allowing them to continue traditional lifestyles and preserve the ecosystems on which they depend.
Economic and social interest
Guilherme Dutra, biologist and director of Conservation International’s (CI-Brazil) Marine Program, explains that in addition to the importance for biodiversity conservation of the Abrolhos Bank, the Cassurubá estuary presents great economic and social interest: “Abrolhos is the most important fisheries region of Bahia state and a large part of the economically important species complete a portion of their life cycle in the Cassurubá estuary,” he said.
The reserve includes mangrove crabs (Ucides cordatus), blue crab (Cardisoma guanhumi), mangrove root crab (Goniopsis cruentata), and various mollusks, all of which will continue to be sustainably harvested. Three species of marine turtles – green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and loggerhead (Caretta caretta) – are also frequently encountered in the area, as are various species of crustaceans and marine fish potentially threatened with extinction, such as the Atlantic seabob (Xiphopenaeus kroyeri), Atlantic goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara), mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis) and the recently described Lutjanus alexandrei.
IN DEPTH: Marine Protected Areas ensure survival of marine ecosystems by protecting coral reefs.
The reserve also contributes to the protection of the coastal environments of the Abrolhos Bank, where 95 percent of the area’s mangroves are found. Mangrove forests serve as nurseries for several ecologically and economically important species of the region, as well as providing water filtration and buffering shorelines from storms.
The idea of the reserve arose from requests by crab collectors and the local fishing community – people who are worried about collectors from other regions, shrimp farmers, and other threats to the ecosystems that provide sustenance for local families.
“The government’s decision to create the Cassurubá Resex deserves congratulations, as it consecrates a struggle of local communities, NGOs, and government representatives, in a process of great popular participation, in which all of the public hearings were carried out,” observed Renato Cunha, coordinator of GAMBÁ, one of Bahia’s premiere environmental groups.
Now We Will Celebrate
Seu José (Zequinha) Ferreira, a member of the fisher folk movement in Caravelas, agrees. “Now that the reserve will actually exist, we will celebrate,” he affirmed. “The creation of the Resex will establish order in our fishing area, as there are few fish with so many people coming from other places to place their fishing nets. The reserve will guarantee our tradition, access to our way of earning a living, and consider the future of our children,” he confirmed.
READ MORE: Around the World: Protecting Marine Areas