Letter of protest from Brazilian artisanal lobster fishers to President Dilma


FOR: President Dilma Rousseff
General Secretariat of the Presidency Dr. Gilberto Carvalho
Chief of Staff Dr. Geisi Hofmann

Most Excellent Madam President of the Republic, Sir and Madam,

We, a group of fishermen, artisanal fishermen, small scale boat owners and members of civil society from the state of Ceará, have come to submit for your assessment this letter of proposals, that should help resolve a serious problem which threatens the heritage of our country and the livelihood of thousands of families, who make a living from the marine fishery, produce food for our population and generate export earnings which have benefited the balance of payments for 70 years.

THE PROBLEM: For more than 20 years fishermen, managers and researchers have expressed concern over the direction lobster fishing was taking. Ten years ago the government made a partial response by introducing shared management in an attempt to manage the fishery but sadly the results have not met with expectations; the causes of which are well known and were recently related in a study by the TCU – (Federal Accounting Office).
The problems of the fishery are also widely known; a lack of scientific research and investigation, a lack of control on the fishing fleet and in the supply chain (which encourages illegal fishing) and the inefficiency of enforcement which has a high cost with very little return, one that has permitted ever more boats and fishermen or divers to fish illegally, leading to an ever decreasing number of legal boats.
Those who suffer as a consequence are the honest law abiding producers, who pay for a fishing license and use lawful fishing gear, as their catches decrease, their disadvantage increases, they lose money and face financial ruin. The fishermen and women, who respect the law and are concerned with the conservation of biodiversity, are forced to cease their activities for lack of economic viability, added to this there is a very real risk that the lobster stocks will suffer irreversible damage.
The data on fishing is worrying: in the state of Ceará, which is Brazils largest producer, the illegal fishing fleet in 2011 was estimated at 70%, this year it has reached 90%. Legal boats fished for only 3 months and have now all stopped. In other Brazilian states, from Amapá to Espirito Santo, fishing is practically 100% illegal.
Lobster exports have fallen by 40 and 50% (depending on who publishes the statistics) due to diminishing catches and export value is falling due to the very poor quality of lobster. Producers expect lobster production to continue to fall and for the first time even the huge illegal fleet is fishing less.
Due to lack of investment in research and data collection, it is impossible to take decisions on the management of lobster, managers failed to apply the precautionary approach recommended by the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and while the conflict between illegal and legal fishers continues, fishing cannot be put in order.
Now is not the time to seek those responsible. Producers and managers have all contributed to this situation, but time has come to present solutions and take political decisions to save the lobster fishery and recuperate the heritage of Brazil, which is the lobster.

Fishermen, managers and researchers from Brazil and abroad, agree that there are many obstacles to be faced in the recovery of the fishery, if there is the will, the situation can be reversed. The Governor of the State of Ceará decided to seek certification of lobster in time for the World Cup in 2014, thanks to a project developed and financed by UNEP, with support from the researchers at LABOMAR Ocean laboritory of Ceará and the participation of fishers, buyers and business men. With the state governments own resources a pre evaluation assessment of the fishery has been made and the results clearly demonstrate the difficult task ahead.
It will be necessary to heavily invest in the production of information and scientific data to be able to manage the activity efficiently. Monitoring and enforcement of the fishery needs to be totally restructured, with priority placed on electronic control of boats and the supply chain. Lobster equal to beef, which is one of Brazil´s most important export commodities, requires a guarantee of origin with reliable tracking, declaration of origin already is a requirement for export to Europe and there is legislation in Brazil but it is not complied with and there are no inspections.
The investment will be costly but the return will make the future of lobster fishing economically viable, initial enforcement costs will diminish after 18 months; lobster will increase in quantity, weight, quality and price, generating income for the producers and the economy of the country. The benefits are multiple, with great prestige for our country in the eyes of the world for having managed to avert the collapse of the lobster fishery which is currently imminent. The investment has an economic return practically guaranteed, as shown in the study by the NEF (New Economic Foundation) on European fishing, greater still will be the social and environmental return and Brazil will demonstrate to the world a leading example in the conservation of marine biodiversity.

CONCLUSIONS: After much reflection and meetings in many communities on the east coast, consultations with entrepreneurs, suppliers, managers, researchers and representatives from civil society organizations, a consensus has been reached that:
a) We ask for a moratorium prohibiting fishing, purchase, sale, processing, commercialization and export of lobster from the November 1st 2012 to April 20th 2014, so that during this 18 month period the fishery can be reformed and reorganized to guarantee the recovery and sustainability of the fishery. We consider this impossible whilst the illegal fleet continues fishing / diving and the legal fishermen are excluded from fishing for lack of financial conditions and the prospect of deteriorating catches.
b) We recommend the publication of a presidential decree creating a task-force coordinated by the Cabinet Office of the Presidency, which will bring together 5 or more ministries, including fishing, environment, labor, justice, social development, defense and others, who in a period of 90 days will organize the transition period and develop a proposal for the recovery of the lobster fishery. This proposal will be negotiated with all users of the resource and specifically artisanal fishers and civil society organizations.
c) We understand that a large part of the cost and investment should remain the responsibility of the government who is, ultimately, the owner of the resource, but it was clear in all of the meetings with fishermen and women that they are willing to contribute, including financially after the return to fishing in 2014, with a contribution of R$1.00 per kg of lobster tails, to a Fund for Sustainable Fishing to be managed in a public / private partnership; we believe that suppliers and entrepreneurs with a vision for the future will also contribute.
f) Legal fishermen and women will hold a peaceful demonstration tomorrow, Wednesday the 31st of October, at the fishing port in Fortaleza and will declare a general strike on lobster fishing for an indefinite period.

We put ourselves at the complete disposal of your Excellent Madam President and of the task-force, to contribute with the work of rebuilding and maintaining the biodiversity and richness of our country.


E-mail: lagosta2014@hotmail.com


Dossier of detailed information to subsidize the work of the inter-ministerial group.

Official letter and proposals:
Will be registered with the Ministries and Federal Government Institutions.

President of the Senate, President of the Chamber of Deputies, Federal Accounting Office, Federal Public Ministry

And other authorities and organizations, as well as being divulged by email lists and social networks to gain responses and information.


Questions in regard to this document: lagosta2014@gmail.com


Translation from the original Portuguese by Claire Pattison Valente


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s