Brazil has lagged behind many other developing countries by protecting no more than 1.5% of its waters to date - mainly the area around the remote World Heritage Site of the Fernando de Noronha archipelago.

If the latest proposals are carried through, however, that figure would jump 14-fold to around 21%, according to eTurbo News.

The proposed protected areas of around 350,000sq miles would cover the seas around St Peter & St Paul Rocks, a set of 15 islets about 600 miles off the mainland, and Trindade & Martim Vaz, an archipelago even further out to sea.

Both archipelagos are described as biodiversity hotspots containing endemic, vulnerable and endangered species including whales, sharks, turtles and other pelagic species.

According to Divers for Sharks and the Brazilian Humpback Whale Institute, two Brazil-based NGOs spearheading the proposals, these areas of the Atlantic offer “enormous potential” for scuba-diving and whale-watching and, if protected, could give rise to a new liveaboard industry.

The proposals as currently framed would impose two core “national monument” no-take areas of around 42,000sq miles in which fishing and any sort of extraction would be prohibited, surrounded by multiple-use zones in which fishing would be strictly regulated.

However, a coalition of Brazilian environmental NGOs and tourism operators are pushing for the no-take zones to be greatly expanded.

A decision is expected from Brazil’s President Michel Temer in early March, when the public consultation ends.

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