Earlier this year, geologist Pedro Zalan, a consultant to Petrobras, the Brazilian state oil company, analyzed new seismic survey data and calculated that a huge volume of oil is likely buried deep within the seabed, far off the country’s southern coast. The news was at once exciting and worrying for a country distressed by financial and political turmoil. The potential exploitation of this oil poses significant legal, logistical, and environmental challenges that some fear Brazil is not equipped to deal with.
“We have evidence that there is an ongoing trend of weakening of the environmental legislation and inspection in the country,” says Alexander Turra, a biological oceanographer at the University of São Paulo. “So there would be a risk of great losses of biodiversity, fishing potential, and other services this region offers.”