by Ana Marcela Di Dea Bergamasco (ELP 2017) | Environmental Analyst, Petrobras (Brazilian Petroleum)
Brazil has a vast 8,000 km shoreline adjacent to the South Atlantic Ocean. This coastline, characterized by a rich marine biodiversity, is susceptible to many impacts arising from human activities. The coastal and marine zones of Brazil have the largest continuous stretch of mangrove and the only reef environment in the South Atlantic. Several protected and endangered species are present off the coast of Brazil, including whales, dolphins, porpoises, otters, sharks, marine birds and five of the seven marine turtle species.
Petrobras conducts significant oil and gas exploration and production activities throughout Brazil’s marine sedimentary basins, including ultra-deep waters, and has a growing fleet of vessels. Petrobras also has coastal bases and terminals and undertakes a number of other coastal activities such as operation of a wind energy power plant. The company launched the Social and Environmental Program aimed at sponsoring in voluntary manner initiatives that promote conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity associated with the social dimension, and led by non-profit organizations. Simultaneously, the support focus in strengthening both social and environmental institutions, in encouraging networks and disseminating information on sustainable development.
To strengthen policies for marine conservation and increase the sustainability of sponsored projects, an integrated strategic plan was created. The plan was developed as a collaboration between Petrobras, the Brazilian Ministry for the Environment, and the technical representatives of five projects from five NGOs supported by Petrobras, creating a Network (the Biomar - Marine Biodiversity Network). The participant projects are: Tamar (marine Turtles), Golfinho Rotador (Spinner Dolphin), Baleia Jubarte (Humpback Whale), Coral Vivo (Coral Reefs), and Albatross. The plan aims to contribute to the conservation of marine biodiversity by promoting research, protecting vulnerable species and their habitats, raising society’s awareness and involving local communities. The plan also aims to disseminate the positive results and lessons-learnt by each of the projects, in a cooperative effort with many Brazilian organizations that promote marine conservation.
Those projects were created by non-profit institutions recognized for their activities with marine biodiversity, and were selected by Petrobras for sponsorship because the sensitive species they work with occur in the same environment where the company has the majority of its operations: the coastal and offshore South Atlantic areas. The researches involved are widely recognized for their scientific outputs and for the benefits already provided. They contribute to the protection of important species, support wider marine ecosystem conservation; contribute to public policies and national plans, increase ecological awareness through education and benefit local communities.
Collaborate and form partnerships to improve efficiency
By making sponsorship available to existing experts, this helps to maximize the output of interventions and conservation activities from projects, while increasing scientific knowledge and understanding. This encourages the mobilization of other groups in carrying out similar projects and can help to foster new projects aimed at conservation of marine biodiversity.
Share information to raise capacity
The methodologies developed in each project help to raise awareness and educate the local community of the importance of biodiversity conservation. Improving understanding can begin to address the underlying causes of environmental issues, as well as increasing public awareness of the conservation of species and their environments. This leads to improved capacity of communities to understand and embrace their natural heritage. This helps them to manage and maintain their surroundings to improve their quality of life and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources.
Establish an integrated approach
By establishing an integrated management model for marine conservation projects, Petrobras and its partners were able to optimize the development of projects, exchange experiences between the executing agencies and improve the technical monitoring of projects by Petrobras employees
Use networks to contribute more broadly
The initiatives in the area of marine biodiversity, which were previously developed as individual projects, are now brought together by integrated strategic planning that enables the exchange of knowledge and the optimization of efforts, ensuring a strategic dimension and greater long-term stability. As a result, the following gains have been observed:
- The projects have seen a measurable increase in the population of the target species, and have also generated essential technical and scientific knowledge related to the management of species and their environment;
- An Integrated Information System using project results has been implemented;
- The establishment of marine protected areas has been supported;
- Public policies designed to protect marine life have been contributed to and improved through scientific knowledge and hands-on experience gathered through these projects;
- Employment and income have both been generated through non-consumptive use of marine species;
- Environmental education and community training has increased
Despite all those positive results, it is still challenging to measure success. For instance, how to effectively analyze into what extent they are contributing to different Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations 2030 Agenda) and, consequently, the company os contributing? It is more common in Brazil to find environmental organizations that measure output (such as the number of workshops, number of species protected, number of community members participating in activities), rather than outcomes or impacts. These therefore lead only to partial impressions of the impacts those projects efforts have achieved, and probably impacts are the best gauge of long term success, that could also help developing exit strategies.