By Arkady Petrov
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Tamoios Eco-Station (Esec Tamoios), which President Jair Bolsonaro plans to convert into a “Brazilian Cancún,” occupies less than six percent of the bay at Angra dos Reis (RJ) and is home to endangered species.
The group of islands also serves as a sanctuary for marine wildlife and as a natural laboratory, used in more than 130 research projects in the last 11 years.
On a visit to Rio de Janeiro, the president said that the eco-station “preserves absolutely nothing.” In his opinion, tourism could bring billions of reais every year to the region.
Cancún, the Mexican city, used as a reference, boasts luxurious resorts and hosts millions of visitors every year, but faces environmental challenges such as disorderly occupation and significant reduction of the coral reef.
In 2012, Bolsonaro was fined R$10,000 by the Brazilian Environmental Institute (Ibama) for being caught fishing from a boat in an area that includes Esec Tamoios.
In December of last year the fine was waived and, in 2019, the officer responsible for the inspection was dismissed.
Fishing, diving, building and anchoring boats within the eco-station are currently prohibited.
The aim is to preserve endangered species, such as grouper, seahorse, grey river dolphin, angelfish, and mero, in addition to ensuring the circulation of migratory animals in the region, such as penguins.
According to the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), over 200 species of fish live there. In addition to marine fauna, the institute also records the presence of birds and rare plants, such as some types of orchids and bromeliads.
The Tamoios Eco-station is a federal conservation area established in 1990 to monitor the impact of the Angra dos Reis nuclear power plants in the region.
Managed by ICMBio, the area consists of 29 islands, outcroppings and rocks and the marine environment within a radius of 1 kilometer. The conservation area covers the municipalities of Angra dos Reis and Paraty.
Among the institutions conducting studies in the area are the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), the University of São Paulo (USP), and the National Museum.