Economy & Energy
Ano XII-No 69
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Ecological Land Classification of Watersheds -  Economic Importance

The Independent National Commission on the Oceans – a memorable experience!

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O Crepúsculo do Petróleo
Mauro F. P. Porto


The Independent National Commission on the Oceans – a memorable experience!

Luiz Philippe da Costa Fernandes (1)

Vice-Admiral (Ref)

I – Antecedents

In the first years of the 1990s the Portuguese delegation to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) had proposed the organization of a world conference on the sea. This initiative, taken by the Portuguese Presidente Mario Soares, after being unanimously approved by the IOC, was warmly accepted by Unesco that elected 1998 the Oceans International Year, as well as by the United Nations General Assembly itself.

Invited by the UN and by Unesco, Mario Soares had agreed to be the chairman of a world commission aiming at writing an independent report on the oceans to be presented at the International Conference on the Oceans at the end of 1998 in the context of the Oceans International Year and together with the EXPO-98 – “Oceans: a Patrimony for the Future”, to be held in Lisbon.

Consequently, it was formed an Independent World Commission on the Oceans (IWCO) composed of 40 important personalities linked to the sea, individually invited but who would have a geographical and specialization representativity both from industrialized and developing countries. This Commission tried to insert itself in a series of other similar organizations such as the Willy Brandt Commission for the North-South Relations, the Gro Brundtland Commission on the Environment and Development and the Ingvar Carlsson Commission on Global Governability, among others.

The then Minister of Science and Technology - Dr. José Israel Vargas and the then Ambassador to India – Luis Filipe de Macedo Soares were indicated to be part of the IWCO and the latter was elected Vice-Chairmain for South America.

Stimulated by the IWCO, that consided desirable the establishment of national advisory commissions in countries that were part of it, Brazil has formed the Independent National Commission on Oceans (CNIO in Portuguese) composed of about twenty members that were part of the Brazilian maritime world, including three former Ministers and, naturally scientists, and diplomacy representatives, enterpreneurs linked to the area and the International Maritime Law.

The CNIO was established in April 19, 1996 at the Brazilian Science Academy where its regular plenary sessions were held as well as those of the working groups.

In the last plenary session of the Independent Commission on the Oceans, held in September1998, its final report entitled “The Ocean: Our Future” was formally approved.

II –Main Activities of CNIO

The CNIO was constituted as a high level organization and it has produced documents for supporting the Brazilian participants in the IWCO.

In 1998, the National Commission presented the report "The Uses of Oceans in the 21th Century– A Brazilian Contribuition " (131 pages and four annexes) that was formally presented to the World Commission in its English version by the Minister Israel Vargas. In this report are presented the CNIO studies and conclusions: Peaceful Uses of Oceans; Sovereignty and Security; Legal and Institutional Framework; Ocean Use in the Sustainability Context; Promises and Challenges in Science and Technology; Consciousness, Partnership and Solidarity in the Use of the Sea and Conclusions. Without partiality, it should be mentioned that the report was very well received by IWCO.

After that, an important decision was made: take advantage of the knowledge accumulated during CNIO’s existence and produce a report at the national level. Furthermore, to orient this Report so that it would be really useful to the national public leaderships, the decision-makers in our country.

This report, entitled "Brazil and the Sea in the 21th Century– Report for Decision-Makers of the Country", is an original document since it presented a diagnosis of the main issues relative to the Brazilian sea.

It was divided into five parts and developed in 16 chapters. The parts have the following titles: Juridical and Security Aspects; Brazil and its Economic Interests in the Sea; Scientific and Technological Aspects; Brazilian Perspectives and Conclusions. The chapters in 408 pages are about: Brazil in the Sea Law Context; Brazil and the Sea Security, Petroleum Exploitation; Mineral Resources; Fhising; Aquaculture; Merchant Navy; Ports; Naval Construction; Coast Ecosystems; Maritime Tourism; Marine Pollution in National Waters; Sustainable Development from the Brazilian Point of View; Brazil and the Scientific and Technological Knowledge of its Sea; The Sea viewed by Brazilians; In Favor of Developing the Maritime Mentality of the Brazilian People and Conclusions.

Besides having had the consulting assistance of important specialists, the report adopted a systematic approach that was laborious but was worthwhile: workshops were held in different regions of the country with the participation of universities, entrepeneurs and politicians aiming at an adequate comprehensiveness regarding the existing problems and their possible solutions.This approach has been used during the elaboration of the report to the previously mentioned IWCO and successfully used at the Pará (UFPA) and Pernambuco (UPE) Universities, Vale do Itajaí University (Univali) and University of Rio de Janeiro State (UERJ).

For the preparation of the” Brazil and the Sea in the 21th Century” report a Regional Workshop on the Sustainable Use of the Seas was held together with the Ceara State University (UFCE); a workshop on Rethinking the Sea for the 21st Century together with the Santa Catarina State University (UFSC) and another one together with the Univesity of Rio de Janeiro State on the same latter theme. This procedure had another non negligable advantage, namely to increase the maritime mentality in the academic sectors.

It should be mentioned that at the end of each chapter of the report some recommendation that were deemed more relevant have been made.

Besides the 16 chapters already mentioned, the report has also four annexes and it is worthwhile to present some considerations of Annex B – Results of Public Opinion Poll about the Sea carried out in Brazil.

In the 6th meeting of the CNIO, after analyzing the document that had been distributed at the World Commission plenary session – an opinion poll was carried out in 1996 in the United States by the Mellman Group, the National Commission decided to sponsor a more ambitious poll in our country in order to cover all interest sectors linked to the sea, including also Maritime Pollution and Sea Law. It was the first poll of such comprehensiveness carried out in Brazil regarding the sea.

The Gallup Institute was contracted and the members of the National Commission, according to their individual speciality, made a list of 48 questions that were technically adapted by that Institute.

The poll was carried out for two months and about 2,130 adult residents in 111 cities in the coast and in inland regions in 18 states were interviewed. The interviews were distributed according to sex, social-economic class, age group, familial standing, city and region size and proportionally following the best statistical data available in the country. Matematically the error margin on the obtained data was 2.2% maximum.

In what follows the most interesting conclusions of the mentioned poll are presented:

- Regarding the existence of a Maritime Mentality in the country, the answer was affirmative since 80% of the Brazilians declared that the sea is important or very important, mainly those with a high education level (96%) and those from class A (92%) and B(89%). Special importance was assigned by those living on the coast (85%) and in the Northeast region (83%) and in the capital cities (83%)

The sea was more mentioned as a food source (48%) and leisure place (34%) which means that even though considered important, the average Brazilian basically regards the sea as a fish source and a recreation place. Actually only 12% have considered the sea as an important energy source (petroleum) and transport mode.

- About Petroleum off-shore exploitation , only 7% of the population considered the sea as an important petroleum source. Such exploitation was deemed more important than that on the ground but only 7% knew that most of the production came from the deep sea.

PETROBRAS’ efficiency was implicitly acknowledged by the population: among the ten maritime activities listed, petroleum exploitation had the best ranking (58%). However, 46% of the Brazilians considered that the petroleum companies were not concerned about preventing sea pollution.

- Regarding Ports, Naval Construction and Merchant Navy: about half (48%) considered that our ports did not operate well and the cause was distributed among the port authorities, lack of investments and the port staff itself.

As a counterbalance, four in five Brazilians considered as very important that the country should have both a naval construction industry and a Merchant navy. Curiously, regarding naval industry the North/Center-west and Northeast inhabitants valued it more than those living in the Southeast (RJ – headquarters of the largest naval construction shipyards in the country!) and South regions. Concerning the Merchant Navy, about 60% of the Brazilians think that it is necessary the existence of river navigation with Brazilian ships mainly the Northeast inhabitants. Likewise, the use of Brazilian ships to carry Brazilian goods that are exported was considered important by four in five Brazilians. Among the ten listed maritime activities, the operation of ports and naval industry had the third and fourth worst rankings.

- Concerning Fishing, Brazilian declared that they consume more beef (85%) and chicken (87%) than fish. In order to justify the low consume of fish, Brazilians (mainly those who live on the coastal area) said it was because of its price (36%), have no habit (18%), shortage of the product (16%) and restistance itself to its consumption (12%). Fishing was ranked in the fourth best position among the ten listed maritime activities. It was clear the preference for fish, shellfish and crustaceans (33%) farming instead of fishing.

- Marine Pollution is in general the third largest concern relative to the sea (45%) and the first one relative to beaches (56%). Most of our beaches, according to Brazilians’ opinion are polluted due to the waste left by the bathers (45%), to urban sewage, to oils and residues and the Rivers pollution. Brazilians areaware that pollution on the beaches is hazardous to man (91%) even for those who do not go there (68%).

Preserving nature means to protect marine animals in extinction (75%), to attach importance to mangroves (58%) and, according to nine in ten Brazilians, that it is necessary to take maximum ecological care when natural resources are extracted from the sea.

- Concerning Oceanographic Research, seven in ten Brazilians believe that a larger knowledge about the sea can bring benefits to humanity. For 42%, discoveries regarding the sea were considered more important than the spatial ones.

As already pointed out, the interest shown about nature preservation implicitly acknowledges the importance of sea research and/or permanent monitoring of the oceanographic conditions.

- Our War Navy, among the 10 listed sectors of maritime activities was considered by the Brazilian population as the third one in the best situation (24%, after petroleum extraction – 58%, and the sea as a leisure and tourism place – 34%). Concerning the Navy, it was asked if it should be “stronger than the present one”, “equal to the present one” or “very small” and the answer of 61% of the population was the first alternative.

At the end something discouraging: even though it was mentioned that 80% of the Brazilians considered the sea important or very important, the results of this poll, after they have been published by the press, deserved reduced comments in one or another newspaper.

III - Conclusion – Future Perspective

I have considered a honor and an exceptional professional opportunity to be the Executive Secretary of the Independent National Commission on Oceans. The National Commission has permitted to enrich experiences and enlarge horizons beyond the previous professional practices of each one of its members; in my case, as Director of Hydrography and Navigation and Secretary of the Interministerial Commission for Sea Resources. After two years of activities in CNIO, I consider it extremely relevant as well as the independent and unique role it has played in the country.

And why was the Commission estinguished if it had such a relevant and promissing role? It is well known the aphorism: a winning team should not be changed. It sould be acknowledged that once the World Commission has ended its activities and considering it original mandate, it was no more necessary a National Commission that operated in parallel to it. I think that it was necessary a new mandate for CNIO (or a susequent Commission) that would permit it to continue its activities. However, I truly believe that a new Commission must be created following the same model.

Furthermore, it is imperative that the report Brazil and the Sea in the 21st Century after two decades of its publication should be updated and should become available for the decision-makers. Actually, it is stimulating to verify how in twenty years our reality concerning the petroleum off-shore exploitation and naval construction has significantly changed. 

So, the only recommendation of chapter XVI of the report seems prophetic by pointing out that it is essential “to periodically update the survey and criterious description of themes studied here (in the Report) taking into account the extreme importance of the Sea for Brazil”.

Who is candidate to make possible such meritorius objective?


[1]  Ex-Secretário-Executivo da comissão Nacional Independente sobre os Oceanos


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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

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