Trouble in Brazil’s coral paradise
By Maria Angelica Troncoso
Arraial d’Ajuda, Brazil, Mar 14 (EFE).- A coral reef paradise in Porto Seguro, one of Brazil’s main tourist destinations, is struggling with the negative effects of tourism.
Located in the northeastern state of Bahia, the town welcomes thousands of tourists every year thanks to its magical white sand beaches that stretch over 85 kilometers.
The coral reef surrounding beaches and the natural swimming pools that form when the tide is high are some of the other incredible attractions in Porto Seguro.
However, experts have warned that these ecosystems, essential for marine biodiversity, are extremely vulnerable.
From ecological unawareness to climate change, fish poaching, urbanization and the tons of litter that end up in the sea every year, the corals are at risk of dying.
“All the damage the corals are suffering ends up affecting mankind,” Flavia Guebert, general coordinator of the Living Coral project, tells Efe.
The initiative, financed by the state oil company Petrobras, seeks to preserve coral reefs through acts that promote sustainable tourism, as well as monitoring environmental variables of these marine ecosystems via ongoing research.
NOT JUST ROCKS
Although they are often mistaken for rocks due to their hardened surfaces, coral reefs are living organisms that many marine species depend on.
They are made from the skeletons of animals and plants and their constructions require action from infinite living things.
Corals are marine animals and the stony ones remain fixed in the same place until the end of their lives.
The only corals of this type in the South Atlantic are found in Brazil, with several of its species being endemic to the country, such as Mussismilia harttii, better known as brain coral.
While it is very common among the reefs of Porto Seguro, brain coral is in danger of extinction, according to the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation.
In total, there are 66 species of corals in the country.
SOURCE OF INCOME
The huge diversity found in coral reefs is also essential to those living off fishing and tourism.
In Brazil alone, over 18 million people depend directly and indirectly on corals, which protect the coast from storms and erosion and are key sources of raw materials used in medicines.
Water tourism dominates Porto Seguro, including reef tours, diving and other activities that can sometimes be deadly for these marine environments.
“A diver goes out for the first time, moves his fins and hits the corals or grabs hold of them and does not know that he is killing them because he does not know that they are living animals. That, unfortunately, is very common,” explains Guebert.