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Blue Park Ambassador, Yonel Grant, Joins Volunteer Conservation Efforts at Brazil's Second-Largest No-Take Marine Protected Area

| February 5

The Alcatrazes Refuge and Tupinambás Ecological Station, a marine protected area (MPA) located 40 km off the coast of São Paulo, Brazil, boasts diverse tropical ecosystems surrounding its rocky islands. The coral and sponge reefs along the rocky shores provide a home for numerous species, many listed as vulnerable or endangered by IUCN. Due to the confluence of sea currents, this region exhibits a remarkable biodiversity of both warm- and cold-water species. The Refuge is also enriched with one of the highest reef fish biomasses in Brazil and serves as a critical breeding and nursery area for highly threatened species, including rays, sharks, and groupers. Alcatrazes has also been identified as being the largest frigate bird rookery in the Southern Hemisphere.  

In 2023, Alcatrazes Refuge and Tupinambás Ecological Station earned the prestigious Blue Park Award in recognition for outstanding biodiversity conservation efforts. This area — the second largest fully marine protected area in Brazil at nearly 700 square km — is managed by the ICMBio (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade). It is 1 of 27 awarded Blue Parks around the world that has met rigorous science-based standards for conservation effectiveness.

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"Kelen and her team are truly passionate about the protection of this magnificent ecosystem and have already made good use of their Blue Park Award."  - Yonel Grant

Refúgio de Vida Silvestre do Arquipélago de Alcatrazes e Estação Ecológica Tupinambás - Leo Francini (185)

Unfortunately, this beautiful ecosystem is under immediate threat. Since being introduced in the 1980’s, possibly on offshore oil structures, invasive sun corals (Tubastraea spp.) have been spreading through shallow reefs along the Brazilian coast where they compete for space with native species. While beautiful, with orange cups and brilliant orange or yellow polyps and tentacles, they are nothing but bad news for tropical Atlantic reefs where they use physical and chemical means to outcompete and overwhelm native corals and sponges. In 2018, Brazil declared the “coral sol” infestation a national plague. Efforts are underway by management agencies and local citizens to combat these alien invaders at Alcatrazes.

On a bright and clear morning during the first week of January 2024, Yonel Granta new Blue Park ambassador with Marine Conservation Institute  zipped up into a full wetsuit and held  to the lifelines as he bounced on the sides of a zodiac skipping towards the shallow reefs flanking the iconic monoliths of Alcatrazes. Grant joined refuge manager Kelen Leite and her team from ICMBio to help control sun corals and their negative impacts on the MPA. 

After a day of dive operations, Grant, Leite and five other divers had dislodged and hauled to the surface over 79 kg (174 lbs) of sun corals. The corals removed belong to two related species of Tubastraea. Although the sun corals have invaded vast stretches of the Brazilian coastline, the efforts of the refuge managers and a host of volunteers are keeping these invaders from gaining an overwhelming foothold at Alcatrazes, and in so doing, they are contributing to the ongoing preservation of this remarkable and beautiful marine ecosystem.  

We were very happy to welcome Yonel to Alcatrazes Archipelago and engage him in our activities to address one of the biggest challenges to the protection of our MPA. We thank Marine Conservation Institute for recognizing our MPA as a Blue Park, which encourages us to face challenges like this.

– Kelen Luciana Leite, Head of Tupinambás Ecological Station and Alcatrazes Archipelago Wildlife Refuge

 

About Blue Parks

Blue Park Awards were established by Marine Conservation Institute to incentivize and accelerate high quality marine protected areas (MPAs) that conserve marine wildlife, revitalize ecosystems, promote resilience, and ensure the inspiring beauty of our oceans for future generations. The Blue Parks initiative aims to assemble an effective network of protected areas covering at least 30% of the ocean – enough to safeguard marine biodiversity. As of today, there are 27 MPAs that have earned Blue Park Awards.  

In addition to awarding new Blue Parks, Marine Conservation Institute has launched collaborations with groups planning new marine protected areas and upgrading existing MPAs. We call these our Blue Spark collaborations – we are supporting efforts to achieve the Blue Park standard around the world, and we look forward to welcoming the resulting MPAs into the Blue Park Network.