We’ve launched a new campaign to defend the Amazon Reef, a unique and largely unknown biome that may be soon threatened by oil exploration

Esperanza in Macapá © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

Greenpeace ship Esperanza sails Brazilian waters to observe the recently discovered Amazon Reef. © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

In the far north of Brazil, where the Amazon River meets the sea, there is a newly-discovered natural treasure – a hidden coral reef in a region where no one thought possible. Because muddy water from the Amazon River clouds the sea surface, almost no light reaches the reef making finding a reef with a complex marine life there unlikely.

But that is where the Amazon reef was found – a unique and very special discovery. And it is huge! We are talking about 9,500 square kilometers of formations including giant sponges (which are longer than 2 meters/6.5 feet) and calcareous algae, called rhodolith.

Amazon River Mouth map

Amazon River Mouth map

The discovery of this reef was announced in April 2016 when a group of scientists published an article about it. They believe that the Amazon reef, which spans from from Brazil to the border with French Guiana, could be a new marine biome . They continue to study the reef and the new species found there.

However, this unique treasure is already under threat. The mouth of the Amazon River is the next frontier for  oil exploration in Brazilian waters. Oil companies Total and BP want to start exploratory drilling in the area. One of the blocks of oil owned by Total is just eight kilometers from the reef, making drilling there risky business and the environmental licensing processes are already underway.

Drilling there means an imminent and constant risk of an oil spill. This is a threat not only to the reef, but to the ecosystem of the basin of the Amazon River mouth. This area is a crucial habitat for the American manatee, the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, and the giant river otter – species that are already at some risk of extinction, according to the 2014 IUCN List (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

American Manatee (Trichechus Manatu) in the Amazon © Zig Koch / Natureza Brasileira

Trichechus manatu – American manatee in the Amazon. © Zig Koch / Natureza Brasileira

Now, we need your help to defend the Amazon reef!

Our first task is to go see the Amazon reef and share what we find with you! – so the Esperanza is embarking will go on an expedition to see the reef underwater for the first time. The crew and marine life experts will travel to the depths of the Atlantic ocean to explore the reef up close from small submarines. Stay tuned to see what we find!

It will be an unprecedented and very important mission to ensure the protection of the reef and the Amazon River mouth and we need your help! Demand that these companies give up oil exploration in the area. And follow the Esperanza in Brazil in the coming weeks.

Thaís Herrero is a Communications Officer on board the Greenpeace Esperanza.