The first images of a newly discovered Amazon reef have been captured by Greenpeace. The 600-mile long system of sponges, rhodoliths and corals was discovered last year and the images collected may help in the fight to preserve this massive reef. The photos of the reef, that stretches from French Guiana to Brazil’s Maranhão state, were captured from a submarine launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza.
The reef is located at the mouth of the Amazon river, on the floor of the South American continental shelf. “This reef system has unique characteristics regarding use and availability of light, and physicochemical water conditions. It has a huge potential for new species, and it is also important for the economic well-being of fishing communities along the Amazonian Coastal Zone,” said Nils Asp, Researcher at the Federal University of Pará. “Hopefully, this will lead to a gradual mapping of the reef system. At the moment, less than 5% of the ecosystem is mapped.”
The Brazilian government has already opened the area to oil drilling, and BP or Total could begin drilling at any time if they get the go-ahead from the government.
Campaigners are concerned not only about the initial problem of an oil spill, but also the long-term affects of a spill. A recent study on the Deep Water Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010 shows that there is widespread erosion of salt marshes in the Gulf Coast marshes. This erosion is widely considered irreversible. There is fear that an oil spill could cause irreversible damage to this newly discovered reef as well.
Because of the imminent danger of oil companies beginning projects in the area of the newly discovered reef, Greenpeace has begun a campaign to defend the Amazon reef.
“We must defend the reef and the entire region at the mouth of the Amazon River basin from the corporate greed that puts profits ahead of the environment. One of Total’s oil blocks is only eight kilometers from the reef, and environmental licensing processes are already under way,” said Thiago Almeida, campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil.
The mouth of the Amazon river is home to the American manatee, dolphins, the river otter, and the yellow tortoise. These species, the river otter being one that is considered an endangered species, would be destroyed if an oil spill were to occur.
Because of the area’s unique characteristics, cleaning up oil spills is largely impossible and many projects have been abandoned because of mechanical incidents. Strong currents and sediment are also factors that make oil drilling in the Amazon River Basin more difficult.
The Greenpeace petition sends a message to BP and Total asking them to “immediately withdraw from drilling in the Amazon River Mouth Area.” In the hopes of extending the understanding of the importance of the Amazon reef, Greenpeace sent photographers to share the beauty of the reef. The rest of the images can be found on the Greenpeace website.