Visitation on Abrolhos islands suspended

The Chico Mendes Biodiversity Conservation Institute—ICMBio—today (Nov. 4) decided to temporarily suspend tourist visits to the National Abrolhos Sea Park after fragments of crude oil were identified in the nearby sea. Beaches and swamps in all nine states of the Northeast have faced contamination.

Federal Police investigators believe the oil may have been spilled by a Greek ship dubbed Bouboulina some 700 km off the Brazilian coast. Petrobras studies indicate the oil is crude and come from Venezuelan fields.

The move is expected to last three days, but may be extended if oil removal efforts prove insufficient by Wednesday (6) or if new slicks reach the region.


Located some 70 km from the city of Caravelas, Bahia, the national park, created in 1983, is one of the richest places in sea biodiversity in Brazil and the South Atlantic, with unmatched reef structures. The region is home to the humpback whale and to offer shelter to sea turtles threatened with extinction and sea birds. The profusion of fish life in Abrolhos ensures the livelihood of thousands of residents.

Visits were suspended in order for tourists not to disturb the cleaning and control efforts of the affected areas. Tourism workers from companies authorized to take visitors from Caravelas to the archipelago heard by Agência Brasil said they hope expanding the suspension proves unnecessary.

Daniela Figueiredo, a sales clerk at a tourism operator, said the “small fragments of oil” found Saturday (2) were concentrated near Santa Barbara island, and have not been sighted anywhere else in the 87,943-hectare, five-island archipelago.

Figueiredo added that the company took a group of divers to the place “and we saw nothing alarming, even though we hope nothing worse happens.”

Gislene Amaro, administrative assistant at another tourism company, fears negative repercussions of the news about oil in the region. “We still don’t know the impact it may have in the future, whether people will watch the news and decide to postpone their visits, or even no longer come.”

She argues that, as the humpback whale watching season is approaching its end and summer is yet to begin, the temporary suspension of visits tends not to cause an immediate impact on tourism. “But we have to wait and hope the problem is solved soon, hope that the affected places are clean and are no longer hit,” Amaro said.

On social media, the city of Caravelas, on whose beaches oil was first found on Friday (1), said the cleaning efforts were being conducted by the municipal secretariats of Construction, Environment, and Health Care, in addition to volunteers, who mobilized to offer help.

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