Save The Waves Coalition

Extinct Wave: Recife, Brazil

Date of Extinction



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Responsible Parties

Recife Government


Surfing Recife

 Recife was not just a single wave or break but rather a stretch of coast in Brazil thirty-eight miles long that has been closed to surfing. It is now illegal to surf within his boundary and violators often have their boards confiscated and monetary fines in return for their surfing.

This band of coast that has been closed contains many good waves too like; Olinda, Praia del Chifre, Recife, the area of Boa Vigem, Acaiaca reefs, Abreus reef breaks, the reefs of Quebra Mar, the beach breaks of Paiva and Pedra Preta. The Brazilian government trying to protect their tourist friendly image closed this stretch of beach.

The government decided to build a harbor at Boca de Suape. The harbor required that a huge 1-kilometer jetty be built which severed south to north sand flow in favor of allowing larger ships to pass by. The plans for harbor construction resulted in major course changes for two nearby rivers, Jaboatao and Suape, and the subsequent loss of significant mangrove habitat.

The developers then used dynamite to create an opening in the barrier reef to allow ships to pass through. This harbor development changed the habitat significantly. The problem was then multiplied by the increase in garbage left behind from the ships using the Suape harbor. Significant local tourist developments also leaked large amounts of sewage into the adjacent coastal area.

Another ecological disaster caused by this harbor was the subsequent over fishing in the nearby area. Fishery wise the estuary was ruined resulting in a large loss of nutrients and habitat. Nearby shrimp trawling produced large amounts of by catch too.

All these ecological changes resulted in significant changes to the food chain. The significant result of the harbor construction was that shark attacks skyrocketed. The shark attacks originated nearby the Suape River and then radiated out as the ecosystem got worse and worse. Since 1992 there have been 47 shark attacks in the Recife region with about a third of them being fatal.

This huge spike in shark attacks has been scientifically linked to the harbor development. The government turned the blame around by claiming that the increase in attacks was the surfer’s fault for paddling offshore to surf. Therefore, the government outlawed surfing in an attempt to curb the number of attacks. The government used the surfers as a scapegoat for their development. Their motivation was to stop the bad press that would in turn hurt their tourism revenues.

Therefore, the harbor construction directly caused an increase in shark attacks which had the following effects; closed the coastline to all water activities, crippled the local surf industry and caused increases in localism at nearby beaches. The closed region used to be home to 10 to 15 thousand surfers that now are all denied the right to surf.