The Archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo (ASPSP) is a group of rocky islands located about 1,000 km off the coast of Rio Grande do Norte, with a total emerged area of is approximately 17,000 m2 . The low altitude and small size made the location a critical point for navigation, because the islands are difficult to detect with the naked eye, especially under adverse light and weather conditions - which have led to shipwrecks in the past.
The first and most famous of them was the one that led to the discovery of the archipelago. It involved the Portuguese ship São Pedro, under the command of Captain Manuel de Castro Alcoforado, which, in 1511, crashed against rocks when she strayed from the rest of the fleet, which had set sail from Portugal - on 20 April 1511 - towards India . The rescue ship that rescued São Pedro was from the same fleet, and she was called "São Paulo". Hence the name "São Pedro and São Paulo". The first map record of that remote region dates back to 1529, and Brazil's ownership of it has never been challenged.
The first Scientific Station built on the ASPSP was inaugurated on June 25, 1998; since then, the site has remained permanently inhabited.
The Archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo (ASPSP) consists of a set of rocky islands, located in the northern hemisphere, on the Mid Atlantic Ridge (00° 55.01' N and 029° 20.76' W, about 1,100 km from Natal - RN, and 520 km from Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha - PE). It is Brazil's closest point to Africa, about 1,820 Km from Guinea Bissau. It is a remote group of islands near the equator, occupying and emerged area of about 17,000 m2, with a maximum elevation of 18 m above sea level.
The following features are observed on-site:
- Hot and humid climate;
- Rocky soil (dark, jagged rocks);
- Lack of beaches;
- Lack of medium / large-sized vegetation;
- The surrounding sea is relatively violent;
- High possibility of earthquakes; and
- Rich biodiversity.
Located about 1100 km from the coast of Rio Grande do Norte, the Archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo (ASPSP) is the only set of Brazilian oceanic islands above the equator. It is composed of small, rocky islands created due to the geological evolution associated to the Sao Paulo tectonic fault. It is an upwelling ocean mantle, which rises from abyssal depths of around 4000 meters , with a total emerged area of 17,000 square meters.
Despite its extremely inhospitable nature, the ASPSP has unique characteristics that provide unique economic, scientific and strategic opportunities to the country.
- Economic interest - the ASPSP is located on the migratory route of high-value fish; it is a very promising area for the domestic fishing sector.
- Scientific Interest - the ASPSP has always attracted large scientific interest. It is a rare case of island formation - the archipelago is surrounded by rich biodiversity, which provides unique conditions for conducting research in various branches of science.
- Strategic Interest - The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signed by Brazil in 1982 - and subsequently ratified in December, 1988 - changed the legal framework pertaining to international maritime spaces, establishing the right of coastal States to explore and use the natural resources of the water column, of ocean soil and subsoil, across the Exclusive Economic Zone. However, in relation to the "Regime of Islands", Article 121 of the Convention, paragraph 3, states that: "Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or Continental Shelf". Therefore, if guarantees the continuous habitability of that remote region, allowing the country to add a stunning 450,000 km2 to its original EEZ , which accounts for approximately 13% of the entire EEZ, or 6% of Brazilian territory.
In 2004, the Navy, through Official Letter No. 902/2004/Com3ºDN, requested that the Regional Manager of Federal Heritage in Rio Grande do Norte (GRPU/RN) take the appropriate clearance at the Federal Heritage Secretariat (SPU), to transfer jurisdiction over the ASPSP to the Navy of Brazil, through the appropriate Term of Delivery. This term came into effect when it was signed, in 2006, by Fleet Admiral Roberto de Guimarães Carvalho, then Commander of the Navy, and Mrs. Yêda Cunha de Medeiros Pereira, then Regional Manager of the Federal Heritage in Rio Grande do Norte.
On June 11, 1996, by Resolution No. 001/96/CIRM, the Commander of the Navy, Coordinator of the Inter-ministerial Commission for the Resources of the Sea (CIRM), approved the Archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo Program (PROARQUIPELAGO) and created the Permanent Working Group for for the Occupation and Research in the Archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo (GT Arquipélago), with representatives from the CIRM Secretariat (SECIRM), the Navy of Brazil, Ministry of Foreign Relations, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Environment and the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources.
It is incumbent upon PROARQUIPELAGO to conduct a continuous and systematic scientific research program in the region, in the following areas: geology and geophysics, biology, fisheries, oceanography, meteorology and seismography.
PROARQUIPELAGO's main objective is to ensure the permanent habitability of the remote ASPSP region, allowing the country to establish a 450,000 km2-wide Exclusive Economic Zone. Since the region carries the high potential for conducting research in various branches of science, ongoing habitation is made available to researchers affiliated with previously-selected scientific projects.
- Contributing to the increase in the number of research projects developing in Ocean Islands;
- Keep the Research Station of the archipelago occupied for 365 days per year; and
- Create a Pilot Project under the Environmental Management PROARQUIPELAGO.
The identification and measurement of aspects related to PROARQUIPELAGO, done periodically, obey the following:
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Number of research projects in development under the PROARQUIPELAGO.
Annual rate of occupation of the archipelago.
Rate of implementation of the Pilot Project Environmental Management scoped PROARQUIPELAGO.
By Resolution nº 001/98/CIRM of August 25, the Executive Committee for Program Archipelago was created, with its Scientific/Environmental and Logistics/Maintenance Sub-Committees.
Program Archipelago's Executive Committee is coordinated by SECIRM. It is attended by the following representatives:
- Ministry of Foreign Relations (MRE);
- Ministry of Education (MEC);
- Ministry of Mines and Energy(MME);
- Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI);
- Ministry of the Environment (MMA);
- Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture (MPA);
- Navy of Brazil;
- Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA); and
- National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).
The Executive Committee is empowered to operate and maintain the Science Station and conduct a continuous and systematic research program in the Archipelago de São Pedro and São Paulo.
The Scientific/Environmental Sub-Committee (SCA) is coordinated by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and made up of the following representatives:
- Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA);
- Secretariat of the Inter-ministerial Commission for the Resources of the Sea (SECIRM);
- The Scientific Coordinator, to be chosen among the coordinators of projects supported by CNPq;
- Technical Operations Coordinator, to be chosen among the coordinators of projects supported by CNPq;
- Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME); and
- Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture (MPA).
The SCA has the following duties:
- Assess and approve, from a scientific/environmental viewpoint, projects submitted for development in the Archipelago;
- In the case of projects supported by CNPq, ratify, from a scientific / environmental viewpoint, projects recommended by the Thematic Committee and approved by the agency Board;
- Organize scientific/environmental workshops and seminars;
- Promote Program Archipelago from a scientific / environmental viewpoint; and
- Review and take action relating to the development of projects, its scientific/environmental aspects, including compliance with researcher behavior rules.
Among the duties of the representatives that make up the SCA, we list:
1. National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq):
- Coordinate the scientific portion of the program.
2. Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA):
- Analyze and approve the environmental merit of the projects.
3. Secretariat of the Inter-ministerial Commission for the Resources of the Sea (SECIRM):
- Offer advice about the logistics required to carry out scientific projects;
- Report the opinion of the Logistics / Maintenance Sub-Committee about the possibility of implementing the scientific project;
- Report to the SCA any cases of non-compliance with the rules of behavior on the part of researchers; and
- Report to the SCA any logistic aspects of the activities inherent to the program.
4. Scientific Coordinator:
- Liaise with project coordinators and researchers;
- Inform the need for Pre-Archipelago Training to SECIRM;
- Suggest researchers for the pre-archipelago training to SECIRM; and
- Coordinate the training of teams for Scientific Expeditions, keeping SECIRM informed.
5. Technical Operations Coordinator:
- Liaise with project coordinators and researchers;
- Authorize the loan and coordinate the maintenance of equipment used to support scientific expeditions; and
- Coordinate the independent diving activities on the ASPSP.
The Logistics/Maintenance Sub-Committee is coordinated by SECIRM, and has the following representatives:
- Ministry of Mines and Energy;
- Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation;
- Brazilian Navy (the Navy General Staff, Command of the 3rd Naval District and Natal Naval Base);
- UFRN; and
The Logistics / Maintenance Sub-Committee has the following duties:
- Carry out preventive and corrective maintenance of the Science Station;
- Charter vessels for research support;
- Provide transportation for researchers to the Archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo, through the support boat, and boarding from the city of Natal or from the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha;
- Acquire food and fuel for the Science Station;
- Organize Pre-Archipelago Training; and
- Provide health checks for researchers.
Every three years, on average, CNPq calls for tenders, in order to select proposals for grants to projects that aim to contribute significantly to the scientific and technological development of the country, under the Archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo Program. Proposals must meet the specific conditions established in the Tendering Notice, which lists the requirements for the applicant, the timetable, funding required by approved proposals, source of funding, items eligible for funding, time limit for project completion, eligibility criteria and other information, as necessary. The following subject areas are generally covered by the Notice: geomorphology, geochemistry, geophysics, petrology, and geotectonics and structures, ocean circulation, ocean-atmosphere interaction and climate and local enrichment processes, dynamics and contamination of the food chain, ecology, behavior and biodiversity, fish stocks, impact of human activities and recovery of degraded areas.
There is also the possibility for interested parties to tendering for projects directly with SECIRM, at any time. In this case, the project will be subject to a merit evaluation, from the environmental and scientific viewpoint, under the auspices of PROARQUIPELAGO and, if approved, will not receive any type of financial support. It should also be noted that the format of proposals must follow the standards established by CNPq. The following information is required:
- Identification of the applicant and other project participants;
- Identification of the proposal;
- Qualification of the main problem to be addressed;
- Objectives and targets to be achieved;
- Methodology to be used;
- Major scientific or technological contributions of the proposal;
- Timetable (schedule);
- Level of interest and commitment of companies to the scope of the proposal, if any, and
- List of collaborators or partnerships already established with other research centers.
After approval of the research project, researchers will need to be trained to partake in scientific expeditions to the ASPSP. Thus, everyone will undergo health screenings and specialized training at the Natal Naval Base, on dates previously disclosed by SECIRM. Training consists of practical and theoretical classes on the basics of: fire fighting, sea survival, first aid, communications, operation and maintenance of inflatable rafts, and lectures on the Maintenance and Conservation of the Science Station, Life in the Science Station, Diving Activities, Emergency Procedures, Rescue at Sea and Socio-Spatial Human Behavior.
The Scientific Station of the Archipelago of São Pedro and São Paulo was inaugurated on June 25, 1998. Although it proved adequate to the weather in the region, over the years, the site proved vulnerable to the frequent impacts of strong waves. This led to the construction of a new station, to ensure the continuity of researchers in the area, even more safely and comfortably.
In this sense, the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) approved funding for the construction of a new Scientific Station. Given the project needs, and in order to abide by logistical and financial constraints, the installation of the new station took place in three distinct stages:
- Construction of concrete foundations: from 24 to 27 of July, 2007;
- Assembly of the house, from October 26 to November 5, 2007; and
- Instalação dos equipamentos elétricos e hidráulicos: 14 a 25 de junho de 2008.
The construction project was coordinated by SECIRM and took about two years to implement effectively. The consecutive evaluations of the first station allowed for the design of guidelines that guided the work, so that the solutions adopted successfully in the initial design were repeated, while those that did not have the expected outcomes, or were subjected to unforeseen situations, were replaced or improved. The various construction steps involved many Navy Military Organizations and research institutions:
- Command of the 3rd Naval District;
- Natal Naval Base;
- Alte Deep Sea Tug. Guilhem;
- Grajaú Patrol Boat;
- Guaíba Patrol Boat;
- UFES Laboratory for Project Planning;
- IBAMA Laboratory of Forest Products;
- ELETROBRAS Center for Electric Power Projects; and
The new Scientific Station has: accommodations for 4 people, living room; laboratory, kitchen, bathroom, balcony, storage area for drinking water and a support building for the emergency power generator and batteries for the photovoltaic system. The site also has a fuel depot, a pier for small vessels, and a walkway, connecting the pier to the main building.
The Scientific Station is occupied by four civilian researchers, rotated every 15 days. Vessels chartered by SECIRM provide transport for these researchers and, for their safety, remain in the vicinity of the archipelago at all times. The station has satellite communications equipment (Iridium), radio (VHF and HF), Internet and a payphone. Archipelago expeditions are conducted quarterly, with the support of ships commanded by the 3rd Naval District, to carry out the preventive and corrective maintenance on buildings and electrical and electronic equipment.
- Cristina Engel de Alvares (in portuguese)
- Fábio Hissa Vieira Hazin (in portuguese)
- Guilherme Muricy (in portuguese)
- Jacyra Soares (in portuguese)
- Susanna Eleonora Sichel (in portuguese)
- Tatiana Silva Leite (in portuguese)
- Marco Antonio Galdino (in portuguese)
- Thomas Ferreira da Costa Campos (in portuguese)
Observation period: 7 from May 2012 to June 19, 2013
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