Green turtle, a species from Guanabara Bay, leaves a list of endangered animals

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Photo: Illustration | Pixabay

In the middle of the sea, a breath of relief. Four of the five species of sea turtles found off the coast of Brazil had an improvement in their conservation index on the Official List of Brazilian Species Endangered by the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), released on the 8th. The news gives breath to the fight for the preservation of these species, which are important for biodiversity in water and on land. This year, one of the highlights of the assessment is the green turtle, which leaves the list of threatened species, being considered a near threatened species. That is, there was an increase in the number of individuals, but preservation still depends on constant actions.

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Another 143 also left the list, while 219 new species and subspecies of fauna entered the list, indicating that they are somehow threatened. At the same time, 1,249 animals, according to the survey, are threatened with extinction in the country.

In Rio, one of the groups dedicated to researching and carrying out conservation actions aimed at this species, in the coastal and marine environment, is the Aruanã Project. Formed by specialists, it has actions to raise awareness and environmental education, as well as studies based on the interactions between the green turtle and the environments through which it travels.

The project, officially founded 10 years ago, currently monitors the species in Itaipu Beach, in Niterói, and in Guanabara Bay and surroundings. One of the main allies for conservation is the dialogue that extends to different groups, including the general population and local fishermen. Aruanã collected the first data in Brazil on the capture of sea turtles in industrial bottom trawling.

“Since 2013, we’ve been doing intentional capture for monitoring over the years, which is more closely, intensive. We do it twice a year at Praia de Itaipu, which is well preserved, despite fishing, which is a threat. We have noticed an increase in the number (of the species) in recent years. Projects feel they are on the mend, but are still dependent on this work. They continue to be on the verge of not being protected, they may re-enter the list of threatened species”, says the coordinator of the Aruanã Project, Suzana Guimarães, a doctor and specialist in sea turtles.

Among the care taken to present solutions to avoid the death of turtles, is to understand the characteristics of the relationship of the surrounding population with the area where these animals are sighted. Among these groups are traditional fishermen, who can implement techniques for catching fish that are different for each community.

“We are aware that incidental or accidental capture will happen at some point, but we are researching how it can improve over time. How to save the turtle in time? What to do if you fall into the net? In the Itaipu reserve (Marine Extractive Reserve of Itaipu), we followed the Resex process, and managed to include two rules: a fishing exclusion area and the removal of the net from the coast, a simple measure that the fishermen accepted. They know that they still catch the fish, and the risk for the turtles is reduced”, says Suzana.

Although the green turtle is the symbol of the Aruanã Project — this name is also used for the animal —, including as a mascot, the group’s efforts extend to the preservation of marine biodiversity as a whole. After all, each species fulfills roles to maintain the functioning of the local ecosystem. Educational actions highlight these relationships, in addition to the causes and effects of man’s direct interaction with nature. The doctor and project coordinator has noticed an increase in people’s interest in finding out about the environmental issue and how personal habits can be modified and abandoned in order to reduce negative impacts.

Over the years, the Aruanã has received more reports from the population about sightings of green turtles, which may be indicative of the increase in the number of individuals in Rio. In Guanabara Bay, the group does not have a mapping like the one implemented in Itaipu Beach, in which, from the intentional capture, it is possible to recognize the arrival of new animals and the permanence of old acquaintances, who stay in the same stretch for years.

One of the next monitoring works, to recognize and catalog the individuals, will be in Praia Vermelha, with Projeto Verde Mar, one of the 20 partner institutions. The area is waiting to be transformed into a marine sanctuary for the Carioca landscape, as it intends to organize activities in the water and restrict fishing, in addition to promoting research on local biodiversity. Caio Salles, founder of the group, journalist and diving instructor, explained how the study will be carried out:

“We are going to bring the research carried out in the Cagarras Islands to Praia Vermelha. It is interesting because it will be by photo identification, from the plate on the turtle’s head, in which the set of spots is like an identity of each one. We take photos from different angles to build a database.”

updated data

For the Ministry of the Environment’s Official List of Endangered Brazilian Species, 8,537 species of fauna were evaluated by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). Of these 1,249 are threatened with extinction in Brazil. The published listing now refers to updates from cycles completed between 2015 and May 2021.

In it, four of the five species of sea turtles found off the coast of Brazil had improved conservation status. The hawksbill turtle, which appears on the two reais banknote, was in the “critically endangered” category, the most threatened before extinction, and was now “endangered”. The species of olive and loggerhead turtles went from “endangered” to “vulnerable”. In particular, the green turtle was removed from the list of threatened species, being considered an almost threatened species, that is, still dependent on conservation actions to avoid the risk of returning to the relationship. Only the giant tortoise had no change in rating, and it remains “critically endangered”.

Source: The globe

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