Life for fishers anywhere in the world is not easy, they are dependent on many variables most of which are beyond their control.
The majority of artisanal fishers on Brazil’s North East coast (of whom Neu, my husband is one) depend on the lobster season (June to December) to earn enough money to carry them through the rest of the year. In the past the men could earn a reasonable living from lobster, but sadly predatory fishing with the wide spread use of illegal fishing gear has brought about a serious decline in lobster catches.
While Brazil has many excellent laws covering the fishing industry, there is a distinct lack of enforcement, which allows the illegal fishermen to continue their activities to the detriment of all. Prainha do Canto Verde has pioneered sustainable fishing practices and is unique in Ceará (and possibly beyond) in that all of the fishermen within the community fish using only legally acceptable, responsible fishing methods.*
It is hoped that the example set by the fishermen of Canto Verde will be adopted by other communities, that sustainable fishing will become the norm rather than the exception, but there is a long way to go.
Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) and eco labelling (such as that done by the MSC) have a part to play in promoting sustainable fishing and consumer awareness, but the certification process in itself can be difficult to employ in developing countries and the creation of MPA’s without the necessary means to protect and effectively enforce the rules governing them, is futile.
Those fishermen who do fish in a legal and responsible manner, supported by fishing community groups and NGO’s aim to spread the word, to help people understand the realities of life for small scale fishermen and the damage that overfishing is doing to our oceans and ultimately to ourselves.
Consumer preference can force change, it is important that we all become more aware of the food we eat, how it is farmed and sourced and the effects, both social and environmental.
* Update October 2013
It has to be said that in 2011/12 the fishers of Prainha experienced extreme financial difficulties due to the massive amount of illegal fishing which took place in the waters of (what is meant to be) the Marine Protected Area. Men were reporting upwards of 15 illegal boats out on the water daily, each fishing with divers (illegal). There was virtually no patrols and on the odd day in which a patrol did take place, the illegal boats vanished, leading some to believe the boat owners were being tipped off in advance.
This year (2013) as I wrote in “Lobster please walk this way” there were vastly more patrols before the start of the season, unfortunately these all but ceased once the season opened
Prainha (along with a 3 other communities) has begun the process of gaining a certificate of sustainability for it’s lobster catches, making the lobster produced within this handful of communities, the first certified lobster in Brazil. It is hoped that this pilot project will be extended to other regions of Brazil but for this to happen, a great deal of work will need to be done, from the sea floor all the way to top government.
©Claire Pattison Valente For more information:
On Marine Protected Areas. http://www.mpanews.org
On Sustainable fishing . The marine Stewardship Council http://www.msc.org
U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fish Watch programme http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/
The World Wild Life Fund http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/how_we_work/conservation/marine/sustainable_fishing/sustainable_seafood/seafood_guides/
Sites that help the consumer make informed choices about the fish they eat.
This is an edited and updated version of a post first published in 2010 on my other blog about life in the village of Prainha do Canto Verde The English Woman’s blog