The community of Maré Island publically denounces the destruction of the mangroves located within their traditional territories. About a week ago, with chainsaws in hand, approximately 50 unidentified men devastated the biome. In the assessment of Marizélha Lopes, one of the local leaders and a representative of the Movement of Artisanal Fishermen and Women (Movimento de Pescadores e Pescadoras Artesanais: MPP), this will have a severe impact on the environmental diversity and means of subsistence of the fishermen and women, and shellfish pickers in the region.

The focus of the devastation is situated within the River Aratu, between the company Dow Química and the Ford company port. “We don’t know who it is, we are just in agony. I am devastated to see this situation, the chainsaws; the herons that usually lived in there, in the mangroves, which are now on the ground,” said Marizélha with concern.

The area is authorized for vegetation suppression and dredging, with licensing authorized to the Bahia Terminais port enterprise. The space has become another port in the region, disregarding its capacity to support the environment and the ecosystem, as well as social and economic impacts, particularly on artisanal fishing.
However, the community asserts that no consultation was undertaken, nor was previous warning provided of the destruction of the mangroves, which are essential for both environmental balance and the existence of these fishing peoples.

“This population is treated as inexistent”, states Pedro Diamantino, teacher and researcher from the Federal University of Feira de Santana (Universidade Federal de Feira de Santana: UEFS), portraying yet another facet of racism that has taken over the world’s media in recent weeks. Environmental racism, instigated in this region, is made manifest in the death of the programme for traditional black peoples who live in territories with precarious access to their basic rights, or, as in this case, residents in regions of economic interest. “Now, in the middle of the pandemic, when we are concerned with our health, they are destroying the remains of the mangroves. If they do this, fishing will disappear. Several families live off this river, both fishermen and women from Maré island, such as those from Caboto, Boca do Rio (a community within Aratu Port), the community of Aratu (on São João island), and Mapele” notes the leader, reinforcing the need for the local authorities to inspect and prevent the destruction of local flora and the fishermen and women’s and shellfish pickers’ means of survival in the region.

History of rights violations
Since the 1950s, significant industrialization has taken place in the region, which was already inhabited by quilombola communities, with the installation of petrochemical industries. The effects were quickly felt by local residents and today have been documented in research.
The Aratu Port is the main outlet of products from Bahia’s Petrochemical Complex, located in the city of Camaçari (Bahia).

For years, the irresponsible disposal of products has contaminated the waters and brought sickness to the population of Maré Island. Several studies have provided evidence of the impact of this contamination on the health of the fishermen and women in the area. One of the most serious cases resulted from an accident involving the Golden Miller tanker. On 17 December 2013, this ship from the Bahamas leaked oil into All Saints Bay.
A study conducted by Neuza Miranda, from the Federal University of Bahia (Universidade Federal da Bahia: UFBA), shows that the pollution of the waters has led to an accumulation of heavy metals across the region’s entire food chain. Since fish form an essential part of the residents’ diet, these metals are continually being ingested.