The buffer zone, created by Brazil's Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA), encompasses nearly 95,000 square kilometers ?an area larger than Portugal ?and protects the entire Abrolhos region off Brazil's central coast, including several types of coastal and marine ecosystems with unique and endangered species, such as the humpback whales.
Under Brazilian law, buffer zones around protected areas offer strong protection, with special permits from environmental authorities required for any economic use.
"The buffer zone will guarantee the biodiversity integrity in the Park and ensure that local communities can continue carrying out their means of livelihood through traditional fishing and eco-tourism activities," said Guilherme Dutra, director of CI-Brazil for the marine program.
The Abrolhos region, located off the coastal town of Caravelas in the far south of Bahia, northeast Brazil, is home to mangrove forests and restinga (a uniquely Brazilian ecosystem of sparsely vegetated sand ridges) and a complex of small islands, coral and algal reefs. Its natural resources directly support more than 100,000 people.
Since 1996, CI-Brazil has conducted biological monitoring at Abrolhos National Marine Park, including assessments of the effects of oil and gas exploration and possible oil spills that helped motivate the effort by IBAMA to get the buffer zone declared.
Under the government declaration, oil and gas activities are prohibited in 75 percent of the buffer zone, and approval for such development in the other 25 percent would require detailed studies showing no adverse impact.