Neu is fishing over 13 hours a day at the moment, not that he is catching anything worth that amount of effort.
The Pirate boats are out in force, non of the men from here are earning anything. Last week Neu made R$2.00 and he still owes for the bait, one of his friends was comparatively wealthy with a whole R$5.00 for a full weeks work. To put that in perspective, a bag of rice costs R$2.50.
Neu is bringing all his traps back to shore this week, many others have already done so. This could put them at risk of losing their closed season payment. It is meant to give them an income for the 6 months they are not allowed to fish for lobster, but more and more of the men (and their families) are dependant on this payment to clear the debts they have run up through the fishing season. They were told that in order to be eligible for this payment, they must fish exclusively for lobster and for the entire fishing season, but how can they when it is costing the boat owner money to put to sea? Neu now owes more than he did at the start of the season (when he only owed for his traps).
They need to be catching in the region of 30 kilos of lobster a week, at least during the first months of the season, but this year catches have been as low as 1 – 6 kilos per week. they cannot continue like this.
Neu is leaving the house at between 2.30 and 3 every morning. He goes out to check his traps, and then move them to another location if, as is usual he knows the lobster have been taken by a diver. He knows they have been stolen because more often than not, the divers cut the mesh on the traps, requiring a repair job at sea. Having re located the traps, they head for the beach. At the moment the weather is very unpredictable, we are coming into the season of high winds, so the men have all reduced their sail size. Sometimes we are battered by high winds and tremendous storms, which vanish as fast as they arrive, leaving the air and sea as still as still can be. The men are one moment, drenched in rain and tossed by gales and then becalmed. To be capsized and, or have the sails ripped is common at this time of year, on the other hand, with no wind and a small sail it can take them hours to get back.
Having reached the beach around one in the afternoon, Neu goes back out to try for fish or prawns for us, sometimes he is lucky, sometimes not. I don’t know how long he can keep this up for, it is very hard on everyone. I asked him what he thought of the fact that we are now an MPA (Marine Protected Reserve). He isn’t overly optimistic that it will make any difference, as he said IBAMA come, the pirates go away, IBAMA go, the pirates come back. There really needs to be a concentrated effort on behalf of the government to solve the problem of illegal fishers.
©Claire Pattison Valente 2009