Brazil's maritime region holds an extraordinary biodiversity with more than 7,400 km of coastline and 3.6 million km² of exclusive economic zone. This area includes 3,000 km of coral reefs and 12% of the world's mangroves. These areas and their natural resources are extremely important for the economy of the country. Around 18 % of Brazilian population lives on the coast and economic activities in this areas account for about 70% of the country’s GDP, resulting in pressures on coastal resources and negative impacts on the biodiversity. The main Brazilian strategy for biodiversity conservation in situ is the establishment and the maintenance of the National System of Protected Areas. Despite efforts to create Protected Areas, the Marine Biome has the smallest percentage of area under protection in Brazil, with about 1.5%. Moreover, the few designated marine protected areas have not been well implemented and managed. Historically, public and political ignores economic benefits of ecosystem services and non-utilitarian benefits, instead considering only the immediate values obtained from direct exploration. Currently, the politics and social context in Brazil are unfavorable to the establishment of new Protected Areas and the fuller implementation and better management of the existing ones.
This paper provides an overview of the Brazilian legal framework for protected areas and current governmental plans and actions. The MPAs’ current situation was analyzed, in terms of number, area, and ecosystems representativeness. Procedures, challenges, and difficulties to the establishment and implementation of MPAs are presented. The paper argues that early stakeholder engagement in planning and enhanced public awareness about MPAs benefits are necessary if more MPAs are to be established and well managed. Concluding, coastal and marine spatial planning and other related strategies that include meaningful public participation, increased financial resources for planning and implementation, and the subsequent increased political support are essential to ensure environmental protection for costal and marine biomes in Brazil.