Hundreds of Threatened Species are Still Left with No Protection in Brazil
Lately, we have seen countless situations where environmental policy, the legal framework and formally ratified international treaties have been neglected, bringing serious consequences to biodiversity, the economy and the quality of life of the Brazilian people.
A recent example has been the attempt by the Senate to cancel the three national lists of threatened species of animals and plants through legislative decrees. If successful, this attempt could had left more than 3.200 threatened species without any legal protection in Brazil. Luckily, and thanks to the quick mobilization of Brazilian society, this initiative was suspended by the senator who proposed the decrees.
However, this is still far from being a definitive victory since there are still other projects with the same objectives in the Lower House. Even more worrisome is the fact that the national list, which protects 475 species of fish and marine invertebrates threatened with extinction (Ordinance MMA 445 of 2014), has been suspended by injunction, ignoring the constitutional principles, the consequences for the environment and for Brazilian society. As a consequence, hundreds of species, such as the whale shark, many species of rays, sea horses, hammerhead sharks, the wreckfish and groupers continue to have their populations diminished with no protection at all.
The article 225 of the Brazilian constitution states that every Brazilian citizen has the right to have an ecologically balanced environment, and that everyone has the duty to protect and conserve the environment for the present and future generations. This article also determines that it is responsibility of the public authority to protect animals and plants from practices that may drive species to extinction. Therefore, the list of threatened species is an important tool that works as a conservation umbrella to assure their protection. The Minister of Environment coordinates the Biodiversity National Policy and is responsible for publishing the Red Lists of threatened species.
The Brazilian wildlife Red Lists were the result of six years of careful work by more than 1.500 experts, using the best science available. The species assessment where conducted using the respected methodology developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is adopted by most countries and globally recognized as the most comprehensive and the only one able to assess the conservation status of all the species, from fungi to higher animals. Therefore, there is no question in regards to the robustness of this list.
For this reason, the suspension of the legal effects of the list by injunction ignores the efforts of thousands of scientists and put in risk the survivorship, ecological function and free ecological services of almost 500 aquatic species.
These species had their populations severely diminished, some by more than 90%. However, they are still being exploited by fisheries, have their ecosystems destroyed and are not even considered at environmental assessments of potentially impacting activities. Without this umbrella legal framework, public and private bodies and institutions, and ultimately the Brazilian society, will not be able to stop the decline of these already diminished populations.
The ecological, socio-economic and cultural consequences of the suspension of Ordinance 445 can be irreversible and, as usual, the Brazilian society is the one to pay for this loss.