International
Brazilian fisherwoman Valeria Maria de Alcantara removes spilled crude oil from mangroves, in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Pernambuco state. Photograph: Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images

Oil spill threatens vast areas of mangroves and coral reefs in Brazil

Pollution stretches across 2,400km of coastline, with scientists fearing contamination of food chain

Hundreds of kilometres of mangroves and coral reefs, as well as humpback whale breeding grounds, are under threat from an oil spill that has polluted more than 2,400km of Brazil’s north-eastern coast in the last two months.

The Brazilian Navy, which has deployed 8,500 personnel, 30 ships and 17 aircraft in the cleanup operation, said this week that 4,200 tonnes of oil have been removed from beaches, amid fears by scientists that some has already entered the food chain.

“There are still many indirect impacts that have not yet been properly shown,” said Guilherme Dutra, director of Conservation International’s marine programme in Brazil. “The risk of contamination of the food chain is very high, especially in areas directly affected.”

The government of President Jair Bolsonaro initially struggled to react to the spill, leaving volunteers to clean up. On Wednesday it staged Brazil’s biggest-ever oil auction for ultra-deep-water rights, which raised $17bn (£13bn) – a disappointing shortfall on the $26bn the government had hoped for.

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