The Oceans and Climate Change Impact: CEPB's Visit to The Fernando de Noronha National Marine Park and Tamar Project

Common sea turtle species in Fernando de Noronha.
View of "Morro Dois Irmãos", located inside the Marine Park. Image taken during the visit.

When it comes to marine life, the Fernando de Noronha National Marine Park is without a doubt a paradise in Brazil. Marine life is under intense attack from all sides, hence the importance of the proclamation of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), within the framework of the United Nations, to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health.

Marine ecosystems  are the largest components of the Earth system that stabilizes the climate and sustains life on the planet and human well-being. However, the First World Ocean Assessment released in 2016 identified that much of the ocean is now seriously degraded, with changes and losses in the structure, function and benefits of marine systems.

That is why projects that seek to defend and preserve the rich marine biodiversity are so important. Talking about initiatives in this sense being carried out in Brazil and not mentioning Fundação Projeto Tamar is practically impossible! Fundação Projeto Tamar has been operating on the Brazilian coast since the 1980s with the mission of promoting the recovery of sea turtles, developing research, conservation and social inclusion actions, as can be seen on the organization’s website. 

It is present in 23 locations in eight Brazilian states, between coastal zones and oceanic islands: Rio Grande do Norte, Pernambuco, Sergipe, Bahia, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Santa Catarina. It develops research, management and protection actions for the five species of sea turtles that occur in Brazil, in addition to community involvement activities, social inclusion, environmental awareness and education, plus appreciation of the local culture and generation of job and income opportunities.


Tamar Project's role in Fernando de Noronha National Park - Brazil

Image taken during the visit to the Tamar Project unit, on Fernando de Noronha Island.

As a result of this continuous effort, the Tamar Project has been achieving important goals, among them: the recovery of species; expansion of scientific knowledge; support from coastal communities that stopped direct use of turtles and started to protect them; awareness and support of society in general and the generation of own resources (sustainability). The organization’s work, research, achievements and actions can be visited in person in the locations that are present in Brazil, and you can also help by purchasing products from Loja Tamar (which are beautiful and made with all love and dedication in a sustainable way) . 

About Loja Tamar, they sell products made in Brazil, produced by the confections of Fundação Projeto Tamar in the localities of Regência, in the State of Espirito Santo and Pirambu, in the State of Sergipe and also by local craft groups. All these initiatives generate job opportunities for coastal communities that rely on the conservation of sea turtles for their livelihood. It is important to emphasize that the Foundation depends on these resources for its subsistence, which are also generated from the Visitor Centers and also through the provision of services. These resources are fully invested in protection and research, environmental awareness and education, job and income generation, social inclusion and community involvement. An amazing example on how to turn words into action!

On the left: Max Almeida, our project manager in Brazil. On the right: Rafaely Nayanna, coordinator of the Fernando de Noronha Unit of Projeto Tamar. Image taken during the visit.

Recently, our Project Manager in Brazil, Max Almeida, had the opportunity to visit the project center located on the island of Fernando de Noronha, in the State of Pernambuco, Northeast Brazil, where CEPB has been developing activities since 2019 in its various biomes. On the occasion, Max spoke with Rafaely Nayanna, Project Coordinator at the Projeto Tamar in Fernando de Noronha Unit. They talked about the importance of the organization’s work on the island, which is home to numerous species. Rafaely talked a little about the work developed on the island and the types of sea turtle species that are most common in the region. The coordinator highlighted the fundamental role of the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) in the inspection and monitoring in the region and its partnership with the Foundation, especially considering the important role of the Institute for the conservation of numerous marine species endemic to the island, such as of dolphins, sharks, rays, hundreds of species of fish and  the sea turtles, the focus of Projeto Tamar’s work.

Regarding the Foundation’s role in monitoring accidents with animals, in this case, with sea turtles, Rafaely mentions that the role of the community is very important, as most of the incidents notices come through native people who live on the island. Thus, giving the organization the opportunity to inform the competent bodies about the occurrences, thus collaborating with the local environmental authorities.

Image taken during the visit portraying the moment when researchers are developing the initiative to monitor the reproduction of sea turtle species on the island of Fernando de Noronha.

According to information on the Projeto Tamar website, four of the five species of sea turtles found in Brazil are in some degree of threat of extinction, according to criteria of the Red Book of Brazilian Fauna Threatened with Extinction (ICMBio/MMA) and the International Society for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to the latest review by the group of experts on sea turtles, and through Ordinance MMA N 148, of June 7, 2022, the status of these species was as follows: leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), remains in the category “ critically endangered”, loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), and olive tree turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) moved to the “vulnerable” category, and the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata, moved to the “endangered” category.

On beaches where turtles spawn, habitat destruction by the disorderly occupation of the coast, artificial lighting / photopollution, predation and vehicle traffic continue to hamper the process of reproduction and birth of turtles. At sea, incidental capture in fisheries, pollution in its various forms (mainly solid and chemical waste) and climate change can affect sea turtles throughout their entire life cycle, with the latter threat also having an impact on land in the spawning areas of these animals.

In this context, one of the Project’s initiatives is Reproductive Monitoring, in which the beaches of Fernando de Noronha are monitored by the team of researchers from Projeto Tamar. At dawn, they identify nests deposited on the night before, mark them with numbered stakes, thus monitoring the birth of the chicks and the evolution of this population on the island.

The Impact of Climate Change on The Oceans

CEPB has been working in the Northeast of Brazil to increase the visibility of the work of important initiatives such as Projeto Tamar, especially with regard to justice and climate resilience. Speaking of which, it is crucial to be aware that the impacts of climate change, especially on the oceans, through the increase in temperatures caused by global warming, may cause irreversible damage. According to the Ocean and Climate Platform, UNFCCC and IPCC late reports, climate change due to human activity has a direct impact on marine species, altering their abundance, diversity and distribution, as well as impacting their diet, development and reproduction, as well as the relationships between species are also affected.

Here we mention the three top impacts that climate change causes to the oceans:

  • Rising temperatures lead to different patterns of behavior according to species. In this sense, it is interesting to mention that Projeto Tamar develops research in partnership with the University of Florida to identify whether the increase in temperature is already causing changes in the definition of the sex of animals. According to research, it is known that the sex determination of baby turtles depends on the incubation temperature: high temperatures (above 30 ºC) produce more females; lower temperatures (below 29°C) produce more males. Some species adapt to temperature changes, while others migrate to the poles or to new areas. Other species disappear, as has been observed for certain coral species that can rapidly bleach and die when their symbiosis with the single-celled algae, which they harbor and feed on, is disrupted.
  • Ocean acidification, caused by an increasing absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), has a direct impact on marine organisms with calcareous skeletons or shells: these include phytoplankton, crustaceans, molluscs, among other species fundamental to marine ecosystems.
  • Extreme weather events deplete natural environments, for example through erosion and flooding. They disturb marine life in coastal areas, particularly in certain coastal habitats such as mangroves and seagrass beds, which are vital breeding grounds as well as potential CO2 capture zones. To learn about the impacts on mangrove ecosystems, click here and learn about our conservation and restoration actions for this important ecosystem.

CEPB's Important Role in Mitigation and Adaptation Towards Climate Change Resilience

Thus, CEPB has also been seeking to develop awareness-raising work, mainly on the impacts on ecosystems that are most vulnerable to climate issues. This vulnerability is not restricted to environmental but also social vulnerabilities. It is known that developing countries will be the ones that will most feel the effects of human-caused climate change, especially in a post-pandemic era, which have been most economically impacted, increasing the level of poverty and pushing many people into extreme poverty in different parts in the world. That is why CEPB has been focusing its actions on regions such as the Northeast of Brazil, a region considered more vulnerable to climate issues, along with the North region of the country, when considering mainly the social impacts.

Find out more about our initiatives. Our platform allows direct donations, which are exclusively reverted to the maintenance of our activities, such as those that allow us to know more and disseminate the work of important initiatives such as the Fundação Projeto Tamar.