Brazil’s leading environmental agency and aquatic biodiversity threatened by federal decree

ROSA MARIA DIAS FERNANDO M. PELICICE RAFFAEL MARCOS TÓFOLI GUSTAVO HENRIQUE Z. ALVES TAISE MIRANDA LOPES LEANDRO CASTELLO LÍVIA HELENA TONELLA LUIS ALBERTO ESPÍNOLA ANGELO ANTONIO AGOSTINHO About the authors

Brazil is home to great biodiversity, which requires effective conservation policies to safeguard it. However, the current government, led by Jair Bolsonaro, has dismantled key environmental institutions and regulatory frameworks (Thomaz et al. 2020THOMAZ SM, BARBOSA LG, DUARTE MCS & PANOSSO R. 2020. Opinion: The future of nature conservation in Brazil. Inland Waters 10: 295-303. https://doi.org/10.1080/20442041.2020.1750255., Azevedo-Santos et al. 2021AZEVEDO-SANTOS VM, RODRIGUES-FILHO JL, FEARNSIDE PM, LOVEJOY TE & BRITO MFG. 2021. Conservation of Brazilian freshwater biodiversity: Thinking about the next 10 years and beyond. Biodivers Conserv 30: 235-241. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-020-02076-5.), exposing biodiversity to growing threats. For instance, the government has changed high-level staff, budgets, and office duties of Brazil’s leading environmental agency, IBAMA. In December 14th, 2020, the government issued Decree No 10.576/2020, which overrides previous legislation (Nº 4.895, of November 25, 2003) and excludes IBAMA from the Environmental Licensing for new aquaculture projects. The Decree simplifies the licensing process, which now requires only an authorization by the Secretariat of Aquaculture and Fisheries (SAF) of the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Food Supply, with the participation of the National Water Agency (ANA). None of these agencies have expertise to deal with these environmental issues.

Although the Decree refers to ‘sustainable development’ (Art. 2), it will encourage unsustainable aquaculture (Charvet et al. 2021CHARVET P, OCCHI TVT, FARIA L, CARVALHO B, PEDROSO CR, CARNEIRO L, FREITAS M, PETRERE-JUNIOR M & VITULE JRS. 2021. Tilapia farming threatens Brazil’s waters. Science 371(6527): 356. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abg1346.). Because SAF is mainly concerned with food production, this decree circumvents sound environmental legislation to foster economic activities. According to the Annual Report on Aquaculture Production in Union Waters (MAPA), conducted by SAF, Brazil’s aquaculture activity has great potential to develop, especially in reservoirs of Hydroelectric Plants (HP’s), where ANA has calculated a production capacity of 3.929 million tons of fish per year (MAPA 2020MAPA. 2020. Boletim da Piscicultura em Águas da União 2018-2019. Available at: https://www.gov.br/agricultura/pt-br/assuntos/aquicultura-e-pesca/aquicultura-1/RAP2020DEPOA.pdf (accessed 1.20.21).
https://www.gov.br/agricultura/pt-br/ass...
). In addition to the HP’s, the report mentions the potential for expansion in federal rivers, territorial sea, and the exclusive economic zone.

Also, this new legislation will facilitate the production of non-native organisms in Union domain waters, such as the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus Linnaeus, 1758), which has been pushed by a growing aquaculture sector, despite strong objections from the scientific community (Cassemiro et al. 2017CASSEMIRO FAS, BAILLY D, GRAÇA WJ & AGOSTINHO AA. 2017. The invasive potential of tilapias (Osteichthyes, Cichlidae) in the Americas. Hydrobiologia 817: 133-154. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-017-3471-1., Charvet et al. 2021CHARVET P, OCCHI TVT, FARIA L, CARVALHO B, PEDROSO CR, CARNEIRO L, FREITAS M, PETRERE-JUNIOR M & VITULE JRS. 2021. Tilapia farming threatens Brazil’s waters. Science 371(6527): 356. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abg1346.). The common escape of non-native organisms from aquaculture farms is a major source of impacts to aquatic ecosystems (Casimiro et al. 2018CASIMIRO ACR, GARCIA DAZ, VIDOTTO-MAGNONI AP, BRITTON JR, AGOSTINHO AA, ALMEIDA FS & ORSI ML. 2018. Escapes of non-native fish from flooded aquaculture facilities: the case of Paranapanema River, southern Brazil. Zoologia 35: 1-6. https://doi.org/10.3897/zoologia.35.e14638.), including habitat modification, competition and predation, the introduction of new pathogens and parasites, and genetic erosion (Lockwood et al. 2009LOCKWOOD JL, CASSEY P & BLACKBURN TM. 2009. The more you introduce the more you get: the role of colonization pressure and propagule pressure in invasion ecology. Divers Distrib 15: 904-910. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4642.2009.00594.x., Bezerra et al. 2019BEZERRA LAV, FREITAS MO, DAGA VS, OCCHI TVT, FARIA L, COSTA APL, PADIAL AA, PRODOCIMO V & VITULE JRS. 2019. A network meta-analysis of threats to South American fish biodiversity. Fish Fish 20: 620-639. https://doi.org/10.1111/faf.12365.).

The spread of aquaculture facilities across the country can have serious implications, once Brazil has the largest hydrographic network and the highest fish diversity in the world (Reis et al. 2016REIS RE, ALBERT JS, DI DARIO F, MINCARONE MM, PETRY P & ROCHA LA. 2016. Fish biodiversity and conservation in South America. J Fish Biol 89: 12-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.13016.). The impacts may even reach river basins where invasive species are still absent, such as some river systems in the Amazon basin and along the Atlantic coast. Additionally, the spread of aquaculture facilities will inevitably affect freshwater environments of neighboring countries. Over 60% of the national territory is located within river basins that share river networks with those countries through 83 border or transboundary rivers (SAE 2013SAE. 2013. Água e Desenvolvimento Sustentável Recursos Hídricos Fronteiriços e Transfronteiriços do Brasil. Available at: http://estatico.cnpq.br/portal/premios/2013/pjc/imagens/noticias/publicacao_agua_sae.pdf (accessed 1.10.21).
http://estatico.cnpq.br/portal/premios/2...
).

Changes in legislation conflict with Art. 59 of Brazil’s Constitution (1988) and its National Environmental Policy (Law Nº 6.938, of August 31, 1981), as well as with international agreements, such as the Escazú Agreement (2018) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992). This Convention will revise the treaty in 2021 (Azevedo-Santos et al. 2021AZEVEDO-SANTOS VM, RODRIGUES-FILHO JL, FEARNSIDE PM, LOVEJOY TE & BRITO MFG. 2021. Conservation of Brazilian freshwater biodiversity: Thinking about the next 10 years and beyond. Biodivers Conserv 30: 235-241. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-020-02076-5.), showing that current policies in Brazil go against global trends in environmental sustainability. The transfer of attributions from IBAMA to the SAF opens a dangerous precedent for other economic activities such as mining, hydropower and agribusiness, which are leading threats to aquatic ecosystems and may be favored by similar amendments in legislation.

REFERENCES

  • AZEVEDO-SANTOS VM, RODRIGUES-FILHO JL, FEARNSIDE PM, LOVEJOY TE & BRITO MFG. 2021. Conservation of Brazilian freshwater biodiversity: Thinking about the next 10 years and beyond. Biodivers Conserv 30: 235-241. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-020-02076-5.
  • BEZERRA LAV, FREITAS MO, DAGA VS, OCCHI TVT, FARIA L, COSTA APL, PADIAL AA, PRODOCIMO V & VITULE JRS. 2019. A network meta-analysis of threats to South American fish biodiversity. Fish Fish 20: 620-639. https://doi.org/10.1111/faf.12365.
  • CASIMIRO ACR, GARCIA DAZ, VIDOTTO-MAGNONI AP, BRITTON JR, AGOSTINHO AA, ALMEIDA FS & ORSI ML. 2018. Escapes of non-native fish from flooded aquaculture facilities: the case of Paranapanema River, southern Brazil. Zoologia 35: 1-6. https://doi.org/10.3897/zoologia.35.e14638.
  • CASSEMIRO FAS, BAILLY D, GRAÇA WJ & AGOSTINHO AA. 2017. The invasive potential of tilapias (Osteichthyes, Cichlidae) in the Americas. Hydrobiologia 817: 133-154. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-017-3471-1.
  • CHARVET P, OCCHI TVT, FARIA L, CARVALHO B, PEDROSO CR, CARNEIRO L, FREITAS M, PETRERE-JUNIOR M & VITULE JRS. 2021. Tilapia farming threatens Brazil’s waters. Science 371(6527): 356. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abg1346.
  • LOCKWOOD JL, CASSEY P & BLACKBURN TM. 2009. The more you introduce the more you get: the role of colonization pressure and propagule pressure in invasion ecology. Divers Distrib 15: 904-910. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4642.2009.00594.x.
  • MAPA. 2020. Boletim da Piscicultura em Águas da União 2018-2019. Available at: https://www.gov.br/agricultura/pt-br/assuntos/aquicultura-e-pesca/aquicultura-1/RAP2020DEPOA.pdf (accessed 1.20.21).
    » https://www.gov.br/agricultura/pt-br/assuntos/aquicultura-e-pesca/aquicultura-1/RAP2020DEPOA.pdf
  • REIS RE, ALBERT JS, DI DARIO F, MINCARONE MM, PETRY P & ROCHA LA. 2016. Fish biodiversity and conservation in South America. J Fish Biol 89: 12-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.13016.
  • SAE. 2013. Água e Desenvolvimento Sustentável Recursos Hídricos Fronteiriços e Transfronteiriços do Brasil. Available at: http://estatico.cnpq.br/portal/premios/2013/pjc/imagens/noticias/publicacao_agua_sae.pdf (accessed 1.10.21).
    » http://estatico.cnpq.br/portal/premios/2013/pjc/imagens/noticias/publicacao_agua_sae.pdf
  • THOMAZ SM, BARBOSA LG, DUARTE MCS & PANOSSO R. 2020. Opinion: The future of nature conservation in Brazil. Inland Waters 10: 295-303. https://doi.org/10.1080/20442041.2020.1750255.

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    22 Sept 2021
  • Date of issue
    2021

History

  • Received
    11 Feb 2021
  • Accepted
    15 Mar 2021
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