As a writer and explorer, José Truda Palazzo, Jr. is an environmental activist first, having dedicated himself to the cause for almost 40 years. Beginning in the 1970s, under the dictatorship of the Brazilian military regime at the time, José became one of Brazil’s leading voices against Japanese whaling. In 1985, the President of Brazil, José Sarney, invited José in order to recognize him for his ultimately successful work in putting an end to Japanese whaling.
At the same time as his work contra whaling, in 1982, José and a group of conservation volunteers rediscovered a breeding population of Southern Right Whales in Brazil’s southern region. For 27 years, José led a research and conservation project ensuring the recovery of the species, finally securing its recognition as State Natural Heritage of Santa Catarina State in 1995. By 2000, the establishment of a Federal Environmental Protection Area was put in place to protect the whales’ breeding grounds along a 130-kilometre area of coastline.
José also voluntarily served for some twenty years as the official Brazilian representative for the International Whaling Commission. With no salary or stipends, he acted as Alternate Commissioner, Acting Commissioner and Head of Scientific Delegation for Brazil. He also worked at other conventions such as CITES and the Convention on Biological Diversity to promote marine species conservation.
Furthermore, José helped organize the Buenos Aires Group at the IWC, thereby gathering the Latin American countries to strengthen pro-whale conservation initiatives; he presented and coordinated the supporting scientific document for the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, proposed by Brazil to the Commission.
The establishment of marine protected areas has been a highlight of José’s work in Brazil. In 1983, he successfully led the campaigns for the formation of the Lobos Island Wildlife Refuge, the National Marine Park of Fernando de Noronha in 1988 (the main diving destination in Brazil nowadays and where he worked with Jack McKenney´s team in 1986 to help produce The Bay of Dolphins, an award-winning documentary, and now also a World Heritage Site, so declared by UNESCO in 2001 thanks to a supporting submission he helped draft for the Brazilian government), and the Environmental Protection Areas of Anhatomirim/Bay of Dolphins in 1982 (as well as the aforementioned Right Whale protection area in 2000).
In the late 1990s, José was involved directly in the implementation of one of the most important marine parks for recreational divers in Brazil: Laje de Santos Marine State Park in São Paulo State. As a volunteer, José was active in fundraising for vital activities, as well as participating in research and enforcement missions.
José also authored key legislative initiatives such as the 1996 federal regulations for whale watching, the decree that declared all Brazilian jurisdictional waters a Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary in 2008, and the article in the Rio Grande do Sul State Constitution of 1989 declaring all State Parks and Reserves as permanent State heritage sites, as well as participating in producing the first National Action Plan for the Research and Conservation of Marine Mammals in Brazil in 1994.
Currently, José serves as a member of the International Committee on Marine Mammals and Protected Areas, the IUCN Marine Mammals and Protected Areas, and on the Tourism and Protected Areas Task Forces. In 2012, he was one of the few Brazilians officially accredited as Observer by the UN to the Rio+20 Conference in dealing with marine conservation issues. His experience has been shared with many throughout Latin America, and he has served on directive boards or helped directly in the activities of marine conservation NGOs in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and others, having also acting as Chair of the Brazilian Marine, Coastal and Water Resources Network (REMA). He is also an elected Life Member of the Australian Conservation Foundation and continuously participates in international campaigning for conservation initiatives in Australia, especially related to the marine environment.
In 2009, José was asked by the Pew Environment Group to devise a campaign in Brazil to promote shark conservation; he and a sympathetic dive operator from Rio de Janeiro then founded Divers for Sharks, now a 60,000+ strong international campaign working to halt the global decline of shark populations and restrict international trade in shark fins, highlighting the economic and social benefits of healthy shark populations for coastal communities around the developing world. Although funding from Pew stopped in 2011, he and his campaign partner, dive operator Paulo Guilherme Cavalcanti from Rio de Janeiro, continue to sustain the campaign till this day with the help of fellow divers from Brazil and elsewhere. Divers for Sharks participated in the effort to have international trade restrictions imposed by the CITES Convention in 2013 to protect several shark species, and that same year, José travelled to Bangkok to personally promote the divers’ interests in shark conservation.
José Palazzo has published 14 books, including the first guide to the marine mammals of Brazil in 1988, two volumes about diving and conservation in Brazil, and several chapters in different publications about marine subjects, as well as translating and helping to publish important environmentally-related works in Brazil from activist authors such as his friend Jean-Michel Cousteau. José also heads his own private consultancy firm, Truda Palazzo & Associates; serving as Vice President of the Augusto Carneiro Institute, one of the few Brazilian NGOs working with international marine conservation policy, where he also acts as resident Marine Conservation Activist under a grant from The Annenberg Foundation/Explore.org. He also works with Manta Ray Bay Resort/Yap Divers and other community and government stakeholders in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia (where he married in 2013) to promote the island’s unique natural and cultural features. He has since been named Yap Global Ambassador for Brazil and South America.
José also works with his daughter Júlia, a resident of Melbourne, Australia, in using graphic design for environmental awareness and drafting new projects related to Australian nature conservation; and participates in a national experts group charged with developing a Bill to promote marine resource conservation in Brazilian jurisdictional waters, representing the interests of the diving and Ecotourism industry. He is also working on a definitive book about the Brazilian marine natural heritage, its threats and potentials for the generation of jobs and income through non-predatory means, and developing a project to study and raise public awareness on little-known Brazilian oceanic islands.
In addition to this extensive repertoire, José is also involved in helping Céline Cousteau on a project to document and publicize the plight of indigenous peoples of the Amazon. José is married to Nalu Beatriz Machado, insurance broker, and has daughters from a previous relationship. He is a keen diver, certified as Advanced Open Water and NITROX by PADI, with dives logged around the world but especially in his beloved Yap, and returns as frequently as possible to be with his Yapese family, the Ackers.