Abrolhos literally means "eye opener". The Abrolhos reef in Brazil won its name because of its unique coral formations and because its shallow waters are frequented by large numbers of reproducing humpback whales. The peculiar mushroom-shaped coral heads there are composed mostly of species completely unique to Abrolhos. The high degree of species "endemism" (uniqueness) is a result of Abrolhos' total isolation from other coral reefs.
Pressures on this ecosystem include over-fishing, reckless tour operators and deforestation in adjacent coastal areas. CSF helped training graduate Heloisa Oliveira and her colleagues at Conservation International establish a system of economic monitoring to help locals regulate fishing. Knowledge of fish stocks is key to the success of a marine "extractive reserve" managed by two local communities. Based on the research, the communities have created their own regulations for limiting the catch and avoiding entry of outside fishing vessels. This reserve, a novelty in Brazil, is fashioned after the extractive reserves established in the western Amazon for rubber tappers. It was formally established in 2000.
CSF has returned to work with CI and others in Abrolhos as part of our new Marine Economics initiative. Our current project involves collection of more detailed economic data on fishing and tourism to guide management and avert damaging development in Abrolhos.