Lobsters, licenses and payments.

I’m pleased to say that Neu was granted sickness benefit, only for 3 months, though this may be standard practice. Next month he will have to go back to Cascavel, a town roughly 50km from here, to make an appointment to see the benefit doctor, then he will have to go back again on the given date, to show the benefit doctor the letter from his own doctor stating that he is still unfit for work, then wait for the letter informing him of the departments verdict.

Of course it’s not likely that someone with chronic kidney failure will recover, not without a transplant and not within 3 months, as Neu rather blackly pointed out, maybe they reckoned he might have died in the meantime. Neu is not convinced that he will receive the payment again, though I think they would be hard pressed to explain why they have turned him down but Neu says (quite rightly) that things in Brazil often don’t work as they should.

Poor Neu can be forgiven for feeling really hard done by, he hates the fact that he cant fish and to cheer him up I said at least he wasn’t missing out financially, no one was likely to make any money from the lobster fishing season. However, for reasons no one is sure about, this seasons catch rate in Canto Verde has been considerably better than last (1000 kilos in July alone compared to the 700 kilos for the whole of last years season). Most of the men are earning, Neu doesn’t begrudge them the money, just wishes he was able to fish as well.

The thing that is really galling for both of us is that having sold his boat and it’s lobster license (we both agreed we had no choice but to sell) and used the money he got from the sale to do work on the house, I have now heard that finally the Brazilian government have agreed that they will pursue the MSC certification process for the spiny rock lobster.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is in joint partnership with the Institute of Sea Sciences of the Federal University of Ceará (LABOMAR/UFC), the Ministry of Fishing and Aquaculture (MPA) and the Secretary for Fishing and Aquaculture (SPA). The Secretary for the World Cup (SeCOPA) even get in on the act. The UN are involved because the United States, followed by Europe are the biggest importers of Brazilian caught lobster. With the UN on board there is now the very real prospect of the lobster fishery being properly regulated and the illegal fishers taken out of the picture.

There is plenty of work to be done but the aim is that lobster caught off the coast of Ceará will be the first to receive the certificate, with the certification process being completed here by the world cup in 2014, before being extended to the whole of Brazil.

Once the decision was made to go for certification, the government committed itself to dealing with the problem of predatory fishing.  A programme is being drawn up to encourage the divers to give up voluntarily, it will most probably be a carrot and stick affair with the offer of alternative employment, retraining and health checks (many of the divers suffer serious health problems from diving without proper equipment), those that still refuse to give up will risk being caught, prosecuted and punished. It is likely that the Navy will be responsible for enforcement patrols, many people involved in trying to rescue the lobster industry from the illegal fishermen feel this is a step long overdue.

This is really good news for the lobster and the legal fishermen who depend on it, unfortunately not such good news for us. I was told now is not the time to be selling lobster licenses, sadly the advice came six months too late. When Neu sold his boat it was with the hope that over time we would try and save the money to buy another license for his smaller boat, allowing him to return to lobster fishing when he’s had a kidney transplant and is well enough to do so. A license currently costs in the region of R$5000.00 (£2000.00) , money that we don’t have, when the news of the certification process becomes general knowledge the license price will rise, making it ever harder for Neu to purchase one, sods law. Maybe now really is the time to start doing the lottery!

©Claire Pattison Valente 2011

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