CLP awardees help establish new management plan for Brazil’s largest coastal MPA

November 13, 2021

This article has been adapted from the original post on the WCS Newsroom.

A team of conservationists in Brazil funded by the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) has assisted in the creation and recent publication of a new government-executed management plan to conserve threatened coral reefs in Brazil’s largest federal coastal marine conservation unit, the Costa dos Corais.

The MPA Costa dos Corais harbours one of the largest reef formations in Brazil but is threatened by climate change, overfishing and tourist activities © Reef Conservation Project

Located on the northeast coast of Brazil, the Costa dos Corais Marine Protected Area (MPA) covers an area of 1,550 square miles, including over 75 miles of beaches and mangroves. It was created by Federal Decree in 1997 (the International Year of the Reef) and was the first MPA in Brazil to protect coastal reefs.

The MPA Costa dos Corais harbours one of the largest reef formations in Brazil and is rich in biodiversity including algae, corals, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, and endangered species such as marine manatees, turtles and whales. Yet the reef – like many around the world – is threatened by climate change, overfishing and tourist activities.

A team of conservationists at Brazilian NGO, Reef Conservation Project, led by Pedro Pereira, received their first CLP Award in 2017. One key outcome of Pedro’s initial CLP-funded project included working with local community members to establish zoning areas (no-take areas, visiting areas for tourists, and fishing areas) to reduce the impact of tourist and fishing activities on the coral reefs while maintaining the livelihoods of local people. These zoning areas now form a key part of the recently published government-executed management plan for the MPA Costa dos Corais.

“The funding we received from CLP in the last years has been a vital contribution for coral reef conservation in Brazil. For instance, the zoning process is a key part of the management plan of MPA Costa dos Corais, which was dramatically supported by CLP funding.” ~ Pedro Pereira, Co-ordinator Reef Conservation Project, Brazil

This year, the same team has been granted a CLP Follow-Up Award (worth $25,000) to evaluate the effectiveness of these zoning areas in protecting the reefs, which will be facilitated by the recently published management plan (21 July, 2021) for the Costa dos Corais.

With CLP support, the team contributed key information to the management plan, such as field work data detailing the zoning creation process. The publication of the management plan was executed by the federal body of Brazil’s government, the Federal Protected Areas Agency (ICMBio – Chico Mendes Institute) with the aim of achieving ecological benefits for the MPA as well as social outputs for local stakeholders.

The 2021 CLP project team © Reef Conservation Project

The Brazilian government has made several such commitments to safeguarding its marine biodiversity. This includes the establishment of four vast MPAs in 2018, which increased the country’s MPA coverage to almost 25% of its waters, exceeding the international target of protecting at least 10 per cent of marine areas by 2020. Other government-led marine conservation schemes include the Brazilian Blue Initiative, a coordination strategy framework to ensure the sustainability of the country’s marine resources and improve the conservation of its mangroves.

To see footage from the MPA Costa dos Corais and the CLP team in action, watch the video below.

CLP is continuing to support high-priority, grassroots conservation projects through its flagship annual small-grant scheme: the CLP Team Awards. Each year, the programme invites applications from teams undertaking research, practical actions and community outreach to promote solutions for threatened fauna and flora.

Commenting in the recent WCS Newsroom article about the new MPA management plan, Dr. Caleb McClennen, CLP Executive Committee member and WCS Vice President, Global Conservation, said: “As the world seeks to protect 30% of our oceans by 2030, it is essential we scale investment in local conservation leaders like those who work with the Reef Conservation Project to improve management and help safeguard Brazil’s first coral reef MPA. Through the CLP Team Awards, internships, training, and alumni network support, WCS is proud to work with our partners Fauna & Flora International and Birdlife International as we support emerging local conservation leaders to innovate and achieve tangible, effective and long-lasting solutions for life on earth.”

Many past recipients of CLP Team Awards have gone on to lead successful careers in the conservation sector, including establishing their own NGOs, influencing conservation policy, discovering new species, driving forward scientific knowledge, and bringing species back from the brink of extinction. Although the 2022 CLP Team Awards competition is now closed, with the winners expected to be announced in April 2022, potential applicants for the 2023 Team Awards should look out for the call for applications in July 2023.

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