Lethal tourism

A wildlife paradise in Brazil is threatened by the cruise industry

The new plans to bring more tourists to Fernando de Noronha threaten sea animals and flora

Fernando de Noronha is in the environmental deregulatory mire of Brazil's far right government

Image: Wikipedia

A controversial decision by Brazil’s far-right government threatens one of Brazil’s most beautiful and revered natural treasures.

Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago off the the upper northeastern coast of Brazil, famous for the biodiversity it holds, could soon be flooded with tourists and deformed by the installation of artificial corals to attract divers.

If such plans go ahead, wildlife and flora are in serious trouble in the region since Fernando de Noronha is home to one of the most sensitive ecosystems in Brazil.

Besides producing a lot of noise, ships can hit animals and pollute the area. The artificial structures in the plans will also have a negative impact and change the environment around them.

At the helm of this absurd initiative is the son of President Bolsonaro, senator Flávio Bolsonaro, who is under investigation for corruption. He recently published a video explaining the government’s intention to exploit the area for this kind of tourism.

He traveled to Fernando de Noronha recently in the company of the current Minister of Tourism, Gilson Machado, who is also currently investigated for corruption during the election campaign.

Flávio said they are trying ‘undo legal knots” to allow the area to be further exploited. In other words, to remove the region’s environmental safety nets.

The Minister of Tourism said he’s been granted licensing from the Brazilian navy to install 12 spots of artificial reefs in the region.

“Noronha is one of the best places in the world for contemplative diving,” he said and added they are currently inspecting the artificial reef spots across the region.

Cruises were banned from Noronha seven years go due to restrictions imposed on operators regarding leasing and environmental licensing.

The archipelago is managed by a federal agency called Instituto Chico Mendes da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), whose director was recently replaced by the new far-right president, who appointed an army officer with no environmental expertise.

Currently, only ships with a maximum of 200 passengers can moor in Noronha. The new government plan will allow ships with 600 passengers of more, according to information from Estadão newspaper, which could threaten the integrity of the region.

To enter the region, Brazilians pay R$111 (US$24) and foreigners R$222 (US$48). The fee includes a 10-day stay and access to the spots that are open to the public. Around 70% of the funds raised with the tax are used on maintenance and hospitality.

Visitors also pay a stay tax of R$75,93 (US$16), which goes to the Pernambuco State, which manages the district.

The Minister of Environment, who has been hard at work dismantling environmental legislation in Brazil as well as monitoring systems, says he intends to revise rules that ban sardine fishing and night flights in Fernando de Noronha.

Fauna and flora under threat in Fernando de Noronha

The water in Fernando de Noronha is home to several types of animals and plants. These include fish, sponge, algae, mollusks, corals, sea turtles, spinner dolphins, among others.

The new plans and proposals to increase the number of tourists on the archipelago and to install artificial reef wrecks put their lives at risk. It interferes in their quality of life and could lead to their death.

Higher maritime traffic can disturb the animals because of the noise. This could affect their breeding ability, and death by collision would be common, too.

Prioritizing tourism over preservation in order to generate profits for a few is an irresponsible attitude that will cost the country dearly in the long run since it puts at risk an ecosystem of great importance and vulnerability.

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