TAMAR, Praia do Forte, Brazil

The Projeto TAMAR (Portuguese for TAMAR Project, with TAMAR being an abbreviation of Tartarugas Marinhas, the Sea Turtles) is a Brazilian non-profit organization owned by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation.The main objective of the project is to protect sea turtles from extinction in the Brazilian coastline. The extremely worthwhile Tamar Project station, designed to protect endangered sea turtles, is located on the beach of Praia do Forte next to the church and lighthouse.

Tamar is a sum of efforts between the Pro-Tamar Foundation and the Tamar Center / ICMBio. Working in research, protection and management of the five species of sea turtles that occur in Brazil, all endangered. Protects about 1,100 kilometers of beaches and is present in 25 locations in feeding areas, spawning, growth and rest of sea turtles in coastal and oceanic islands of the states of Bahia, Sergipe, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, Spirit Santo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Santa Catarina. Internationally recognized as one of the most successful experiences in marine conservation in the world, his environmental work, developed with coastal communities, is a model for other countries. The Tamar Project is officially sponsored by Petrobras, through Petrobras Environmental Program, the support of Bradesco, and in nine Brazilian states where it operates receives several local support

Praia do Forte is a long beach with a small village to 80 km from the city of Salvador de Bahia, located in northeastern Brazil that gives to the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is known for its clear waters, white sand, natural pools, rivers and an ecological reserve of native flora and fauna.

It was not Until last years of the 1970s, there was no record of any marine conservation work in Brazil. But turtles were already on the list of endangered species. They were rapidly disappearing because of incidental catch in fishing activities, killing of the females and collection of eggs on the beach.

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In southern Brazil, a group of students studied the last years of the Faculty of Oceanography of the Federal University of Rio Grande and organized expeditions to deserted and distant beaches, preferably where no one had arrived before. The important thing was to explore, discover, research, know the coast of Brazil and the oceanic islands. At the same time, the group did directed research, with the support of the Oceanographic Museum of Rio Grande.

In the days and nights when they stayed at the Atoll das Rocas, at dawn, they found traces and much sand scattered on the beach, but they did not realize that the change in scenery was produced by the turtles that came up to the beach to spawn at dawn. On one of those nights, the fishermen who accompanied the students killed eleven turtles at one time. The image was shocking to those who saw the scene, properly photographed.

The expeditions ended up serving as an alert for the urgent need to protect the marine ecosystem. This was how the Faculty of Oceanography, where conservation was not yet discussed, eventually formed a pioneer generation of environmentalists in the country, as they all began to devote themselves professionally to marine conservation.

The Tamar-ICMBio Project was created in 1980 by the former Brazilian Forest Development Institute (IBDF), which later became IBAMA-Brazilian Institute of Environment. Today, it is internationally recognized as one of the most successful marine conservation experiences and serves as a model for other countries, especially as it involves coastal communities directly in their socio-environmental work.

Research, conservation and management of the five species of sea turtles that occur in Brazil, all endangered, is Tamar’s main mission, which protects about 1,100km of beaches in 25 locations in areas of food, spawning, growth and rest of these animals, on the coast and oceanic islands, in nine Brazilian states.

The name Tamar was created from the combination of the initial syllables of the words sea turtle, an abbreviation that became necessary in practice, because of the restricted space for the inscriptions on the small metal plates used in the identification of the turtles marked for several studies.

Since then, the term Tamar has designated the National Program for the Conservation of Sea Turtles, implemented in cooperation between the Brazilian Center for the Protection and Research of Marine Turtles-Tamar Center, linked to the Biodiversity Board of the Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity-ICMBio, an organ of the Ministry of the Environment, and the Pro-Tamar Foundation, a non-governmental, non-profit institution founded in 1988 and considered a Federal Public Utility since 1996.

The Pró-Tamar Foundation was created to carry out the work of conservation of the sea turtles, as responsible for the activities of the Tamar Project in the administrative, technical and scientific areas; by raising funds from private initiative and funding agencies; and the management of the self-sustaining program. This union of the governmental and non-governmental reveals the hybrid institutional nature of the Project.

Tamar is sponsored by Petrobras, through the Petrobras Socioambiental Program, regional support and sponsorship of state governments and city halls, national and international companies and institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations. But the role of the coastal communities where it is present and of civil society in general, which participates and collaborates with the Project individually and collectively, is fundamental.

Based on a multiple strategy, Tamar’s environmental conservation program interacts with the communities involved and other social actors, supporting the sustainability of long-term actions. That’s because Tamar’s team understands that people must first be cared for so they can protect nature, the sea and sea turtles. Local populations are essential in the process, as they can directly influence the habitat conditions of these animals, reducing pressure on ecosystems and species.

In addition to the educational campaigns for information, awareness and environmental awareness, Tamar promotes the search for non-predatory subsistence alternatives for fishermen and their families, benefiting them with various social insertion actions. It supports day care centers and schools; offers opportunities for work and professionalization for women and young people in confections, workshops and other initiatives, including through partnerships with various cooperatives; local crafts and culture are valued; regional cultural traditions such as embroidery and bobbin lace, folkloric and capoeira groups are encouraged and valued.

Since its creation, Tamar invests human and material resources to acquire the best possible knowledge about the biology of sea turtles that occur in Brazil, prioritizing applied research that solve practical aspects for the conservation of these animals. Known for their great migratory ability, with a long-lived life cycle, turtles are still a mystery to researchers around the world.

In spawning grounds, spawning beaches are monitored every night from September to March on the coast, and from January to June, on the oceanic islands, by Tamar fishermen, called turtles, as well as trainees and bases. Night patrol is performed to catch females in the act of laying, to observe the behavior of the animal during spawning, to record morphometric data and to collect biological material for later genetic analysis. Researchers monitor nests in their own posture sites, or transfer some of them, found in high-risk areas, to safer places on the same beach, or to hatchery, exposed to full sun and rain, on beaches near research bases. Marking and biometry of females, counting of nests and eggs are done.

In the feeding areas, monitoring is almost all carried out at sea, often close to fishing activities, with the technicians on board. The fishermen are directed to save the turtles that are trapped in the waiting nets, fences, corrals and other fishing modalities. These areas have high bycatch rates for coastal fisheries. In the oceanic islands, as in Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas, the program of capture, marking and recapture is carried out through free or autonomous diving.

Both in the spawning and feeding areas, marking of live animals is done: all of them receive a metal ring in the front fins, to identify and study their displacement and behavioral habits, as well as data on growth and survival rate.

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