Mission Blue is proud to partner with Verde Mar Project!
By: Caio Salles
One of the most important spots for tourism in Brazil is the Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro. It’s part of a Conservation Unity called Monumento Natural dos Morros da Urca e Pão de Açúcar. Just below it, there is a small pearl called “Praia Vermelha,” or Red Beach, which is amongst the last beaches with good water quality in Rio’s central area. The adjoining bay is a nursery for several marine species and home for many green sea turtles.
Despite being part of a conservation area, Praia Vermelha faces a serious problem: the huge quantity of underwater debris. To address the situation, Verde Mar Project congregated scuba divers to collect and analyze waste accumulating in the ocean.
Identifying the Source
The very first action took place exactly one year ago. During the month of May (2016), we collected more than 10kgs of marine debris with the participation of four scuba divers. The main goal was not only “clean the ocean” but promote the action with videos and photos to bring the conservation community together in this mission. Since then, we’ve collected more than 100kgs of underwater debris and started a scientific project to identify the origin of this waste.
Check out Verde Mar Projects first video below:
There are two major categories of waste we are finding:
1) Plastic – bags, straws, cups and fragments congregate in the sandy bottom areas in particular.
2) Fishing gear and ghost nets – entanglements are common for sea turtles, morays, fishes and coral reefs around the rocky shore.
Verde Mar Project continues to conduct cleanup events every month and in turn, the data collected is being used to find solutions to mitigate the problem and minimize environmental damage. We are partnering with the University of Rio’s course on Environmental Science involving scuba divers, tourists, fishermen, and ecotourists to make a public policy proposal in Praia Vermelha.
Global Conservation Projects
Verde Mar is not only cleaning the ocean and diving against debris. One of the most important objectives of the project is to present and promote different initiatives for marine conservation around the world. To achieve this objective, the project produces video documentaries, a web series, and maintains a blog with resources and information on our initiatives.
The first season of documentaries starts in Rio de Janeiro and shows Arraial do Cabo, an ecological reserve well known for its clear waters and to be the paradise for scuba divers. Diving with sea turtles and shoals of fishes, we discuss the importance of tourism for conservation, highlighting what makes the area so special.
From there, Verde Mar flew to the Caribbean sea, more precisely to Curaçao, a small island north from Venezuela and part of the Netherlands Antilles with Aruba, Bonaire and Saint Martin. In between dives, we discovered a big problem: the invasion of the lionfish, an exotic species that does not have predators, reproduce quickly and eats a lot and everything. We met the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience (LSD) team and dove with them to clean the reef. LSD are authorized to dive with scuba gear and hunt the lion fish. They teach native people on how to clean and cook the lion fish and encourage local restaurants to offer it on their menus.
Next, Verde Mar crossed the Pacific Ocean towards to Hawaiian Island, where the most endemic marine species live in the world. In Oahu, we dove with green sea turtles in spots like Turtle Canyon and the Sea Tiger Wreck.
During the second part of our trip, we visited the Big Island in Hawaii, where there are active volcanos and many waterfalls. The Big Island offers one of the most amazing dive experience in the world: the Manta Ray night dive in the Kona Coast. Every night the divers use powerful lights to attract plankton and consequently the mantas, who arrive for an “all you can eat” dinner. But the dives there are not only to have fun, we met people from the Manta Ray Advocates and understood the importance of what they are doing to support the health of these beautiful animals.
Finally, we enclose our first season back in Brazil, showing our backyard and the dives against debris in Praia Vermelha. We travel around the world and always come back home to Brazil to illustrate what we are doing to save our ocean.