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Enseada da Baleia


Conservation benefit: Protection of 135 acres of mangroves for 20 years

Community benefit: Cultural and community center

Date Approved: 06.2021


This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

Enseada da Baleia (Whale’s Cove), is a Caiçaras community, which means that its inhabitants’ ancestors were indigenous people, Africans, and Europeans. Today, community members are protecting mangroves that are essential to their way of life. Women lead the community, where people make a living from farming, crafts, and small-scale harvesting of fish, crabs, and oysters.

They live across a narrow channel from the dense mangroves of Tumba Island. Alligators and otters are found in this rich ecosystem, as are herons, spoonbills, kingfishers, parrots, and hawks.

The fishers know that they need healthy mangroves. But sea level rise, overfishing, and development threaten the forest and their livelihood. Because the Tumba Island mangroves still have a robust population of the large fiddler crabs called ucá—which have declined in other regions—fishers from other islands come there, some during the closed season. Some use illegal traps and even cut down mangroves for easier access to the crabs. The area is part of a protected area, the Tumba Island Extractivist Reserve, but the government does little to enforce the rules.

The community’s artisanal fishermen see themselves as guardians of the mangrove forest. They will work to prevent illegal fishing, unregulated tourism, and the cutting of mangroves. They go to Tumba Island daily, so they can closely monitor the area. If they see any violations, they can quickly notify the reserve authorities.

The community is using a Seacology grant to build a cultural and community center. The community had to leave its original location because of rapidly accelerating erosion. Working collectively, with women managing the process, the community managed to rebuild their houses. Together, they hope to preserve their heritage with a place that celebrates their unique culture.

Project Updates

February 2024

The members of this women-led community finished building the new cultural center, and it is being well used. Community members continue to patrol the protected mangrove area by canoe, keeping an eye out for anyone who is illegally cutting trees, harvesting crabs, or dumping trash.

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June 2023

With a small additional Seacology grant to cover increased costs of materials and transportation, the center has already hosted many events, including theatre, technical workshops for fishers, and school group visits. Community members continue to patrol the mangrove area by canoe, which deters illegal tree cutting, illegal taking of crabs, and dumping. In May, to catch mullet, community members built a fish trap from bamboo and other biodegradable materials. It took a month to build the ingenious device, which traps large fish but lets smaller ones swim in and out to escape predators.

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February 2023

The community has finished the new cultural center, which will provide a place for women to work and house a library for local children. It was a long process. Materials were trucked over more than 40 miles of unpaved roads and then moved in wooden boats. A mason and two helpers worked continuously, and when they needed help, the community held get-togethers (mutirões). When steady rains hindered progress, they managed to cover the building site so work could continue.

Community members patrol the mangrove area in canoes to look for illegal tree cutting, illegal taking of crabs, or garbage dumping. They have not seen any serious problems.

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June 2022

This well-organized community (there are working groups for administration, construction, and conservation) has laid the foundation for its new community center and is waiting for delivery of roofing materials. Community members patrol the mangrove area weekly to look for illegal tree cutting or garbage dumping.

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February 2022

After some delay caused by banking problems, the community has gotten construction materials and has started building its new community center. They are protecting the mangrove area.

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