Abrolhos National Maine Park – Part 1

New Wave Media

November 17, 2014

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The Abrolhos Marine National Park is located in the Abrolhos Archipelago since 1983. The Abrolhos are an archipelago of five islands with coral reefs off the southern coast of the state of Bahia state in the northeast of Brazil, between 17º25’–18º09’ S and 38º33’–39º05’ W., the so-called Whale Coast (Costa das Baleias). The marine biodiversity in the South Atlantic Ocean reaches its maximum level in the Abrolhos region. Seasonal populations of humpback whales go there to mate and give birth (and to nowhere else in the South Atlantic). It harbors some of Brazil's most important seabird colonies, extensive coral reefs, and several species of the world's most threatened sea turtles.

Almost all of the South Atlantic's commercially valuable species of reef fish can be found in the region, including several large threatened predatory fish. The coral reefs are the most distinctive characteristic of the Abrolhos region, with high rates of endemism: approximately 50 % of Abrolhos coral species and 20 % of reef fish species are found nowhere else in the world. The unique reef type of Abrolhos is locally known as "chapeirâo" and rises more than 75 feet (22.86 meters) from the ocean floor, with mushroom-shaped pinnacles up to 150 feet (45.72 meters) in diameter. The reefs also include fans of fire coral and round knobs of brain corals, also unique to the Abrolhos Bank.

The mangroves of Abrolhos serve as fish nurseries and provide shelter for many economically important and threatened reef fish species that spend their initial life stages protected by the mangroves' roots in shallow estuaries. They also protect the shoreline from erosion and prevent excess nutrients from saturating nearby reef ecosystems. The biodiversity of the Abrolhos Bank is threatened by over-fishing, sedimentation (a result of coastal deforestation), shrimp farming, and oil and gas exploration plays near it. Because of limited regional regulations, fishers from outside the region have been able to over-exploit local fisheries, and communities have witnessed a decline in important and valuable species. Commercial fisheries have increasingly threatened the region's ecosystem, decimating predators at the top of the food chain, such as sharks and groupers. Also at risk are local mangrove ecosystems, the Abrolhos Bank reef systems, and the future livelihoods of thousands of coastal community families.

Paschoa, Claudio
Claudio Paschoa is Marine Technology Reporter's correspondent in Brazil.
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