Small Coastal Dolphins Awarded Protected Area During Rio + 20
The “Restinga de Jurubatiba” National Park has a coastal area 44 km long and is composed of shrub like trees, rich fauna and flora, 18 pristine coastal lagoons that occasionally open up to the sea. However up to now, its 15 hectares did not encompass the sea fronting it. That is precisely where the most endangered group of dolphins in Brazil are found in greater abundance.
The Pontoporia blainvillei, commonly known as “Toninha” in these parts, is set to be awarded its first dedicated preservation area in the State of Rio de Janeiro. The idea is to include an area with a depth of up to 30 meters (following the depth curve), along the 44 km coastal area that comprises the National Park. This will add up to a 15 km increase in the protected area.
The shy “Toninhas” like these shallow, dark waters that are usually brown instead of blue/green, due to the many rivers and lagoons that meet the ocean in this part of northeast Rio de Janeiro.
According to the State Environmental Secretary and ex-Brazilian Environmental Minister Carlos Minc, the increase in the National Park’s area in order to include a portion of the sea that bounds it, was directly motivated by a major media campaign spearheaded by Brazil’s leading newspaper “O Globo”.
The State Government has agreed to pitch in with funds and other funds for equipment will be handed out by the “Fundo da Mata Atlantica”, which is a fund mainly used for preservation of the forest areas along the coast of Southeast Brazil.
There are still some hurdles to overcome in order to officially implement this increase in the “Restinga de Jurubatiba” National Park. But according to the National Environmental Minister Izabella Teixeira, the Brazilian government has a major interest in protecting and preserving the “Toninhas”. During a Rio +20 event last week. The Environmental Ministry will study technical aspects to determine the ideal areas to be included in the National Park.
The “Restinga de Jurubatiba” was not randomly considered as an ideal area to preserve the “Toninhas”. The minimum population considered safe for this dolphin is 5,500 individuals, however, recently published studies estimate there are only around 2,000 “Toninhas” left along the coasts of the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo to the Northeast. The greatest abundance of these small dolphins is located exactly in the sea along the coast that makes up the sea boundary of the “Restinga de Jurubatiba” National Park. This may be partly due to the fact that less fishing is done along this stretch of coast and to the important fact that the coastal waters along this part of the coast are rich in food and comparatively remote to other areas of the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
Hopefully this will lead to a more permanent study of the “Toninhas” in Rio de Janeiro and in other parts of Brazil such as Santa Catarina in the south and Espirito Santo. They influx of funds may make it possible to have a dedicated motorboat researching the small dolphins and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to use state-of-the-art technology such as a small low cost AUV or a Seaglider to constantly monitor the ‘Toninhas” underwater, thus bringing a much more accurate view of their present situation and their needs.