Gayblack Canadian Man

Foreign Policy Analysis
The Amazon Reef: unchartered territory already under threat | AFP

The Amazon Reef: unchartered territory already under threat | AFP


Off the coast of French Guiana lies one
of the world’s largest coral reefs only recently discovered. The Esperanza, part
of Greenpeace’s fleet, has come to explore this unique and extensive
ecosystem. On board, scientists scan the waves
from sunrise to sunset. They carefully record all the species
they sight in this area rich with marine life. “We have an idea of how many species
we have, of the diversity, but we have very little information on their habits, their
migrations. Are there any births in French Guiana too?
Is there any reproduction? We don’t know much about these activities.” Encounters are plentiful. Biologists spot a school of whales in the
middle of a hunt and within minutes the zodiac is being launched under the watchful
eye of the captain. The race is on to catch up with the whales. Between the tuna and sharks, scientists
observe the Bryde’s whale for the first time in this area. A rare species, they
grow up to 16 meters long. This is proof for these naturalists that the area is far from being an oceanic desert. “If they feed here it is because they are
important areas for the survival of species, so inevitably if there are too
many disturbances they will have to leave these areas and is not easy for
them to find the same conditions in other areas. So it really can affect the
survival of certain species.” The word survival might sound strong but the threat from fossil-fuel forages is very real. Thiago Almeida is from Brazil where
the Bolsonaro government wants to sell several hundred oil concessions on the
Brazilian part of the reef. “In white you can see the great Amazon reef system. Here these squares are blocks that the National Oil Agency wants to sell to oil
companies here in Brazil. We are talking about a unique ecosystem not seen anywhere else in the world and that we barely know and it’s already under
threat from oil. A lot of oil would come to French Guiana. If we look at the oil spill modeling done by the companies themselves, you can see that the threat is real. It’s not just the reef which would
suffer in the event of an oil spill. On land, mangrove forests stretch all along Guiana’s coast serving as crucial fish nurseries as well as absorbing carbon
from the atmosphere. “In case of oil pollution we could see oil pellets entering this mangrove. Bear in mind that this mangrove is still the breeding location for our fish.” Renewable resources can allow us
to develop in a sustainable way, however some people have
eyes bigger than their stomachs and and consider that wanting to go and get oil
or gold will allow us to become either an emirate or a remarkable jeweler for
the planet.” This view is not shared by those counting on the economic benefits which oil can bring. For Guianese fishermen, fossil fuel companies
represent a chance to renew their obsolete equipment. Total had set aside
millions for preliminary drilling but was forced to abandon its plans after
being denied a license by Brazil’s environmental regulator. “This is Guiana’s fishing industry, Creole canoes carved from a tree trunk. If the project had been successful we could have had the means to modernize our fleet and our
port areas.” From its oceans to its forests, Guiana is rich in natural
resources, but the questions of whether they should be exploited divides opinion
in the capital Cayenne. Some elected officials are hoping for a change in Guiana’s status to bring Total back. “It seems like there’s everything we need to make Guiana almost a small Qatar. As I just told you 60% live below the poverty line,
public facilities are lacking and the French state is drained and can’t
develop this territory through subsidies alone.” About a hundred kilometres further
north, near Suriname, the inhabitants of this Amerindian village depend directly upon the sea. Ruben a fisherman from the Kali’na
community is wary of what black gold would bring. “I think it’s bad for us. It’s what I think.
Petrol is dangerous” But he feels his
concerns are not being heard. “We have no weight, we don’t make the decisions. Leaders have decided that they make the decisions. We’re not consulted.” The fragility of the Amazon reef
underlines the urgency of reaching an international agreement. Experts on board Esperanza, hope their findings will convince decision makers to sign an
ambitious treaty to protect the oceans.

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