Protesting Brazilian lobster fishers ask government to prohibit fishing and close exports until 2014

Dear all,

Brazilian artisanal fishermen have begun a campaign calling for the closure of the lobster fishery on which they depend. The following article by René Schärer is a brief description of the situation that has lead the fishermen to take this drastic measure.

Following the article there are links that will allow you to download the English translations of the letter to President Dilma, the 15 page technical report mentioned in the text, an interview with René Schärer and a presentation given by him in Santa Marta. (update, these last two links no longer work so have been removed, I will repost as soon as I can find out what’s happened to them)

Please share this information with anyone who would be interested, the artisanal fishers need as much international support as we can raise. Thank you very much for your time.

Claire Pattison Valente.

Protesting Brazilian lobster fishers ask government to prohibit fishing and close exports until 2014 ………….. as the only way to save the lobster fishery from collapse

For 70 years Brazil’s spiny lobsters have been an important export product, destined mainly for the US market. Now the fishery is close to collapse due to illegal destructive fishing. With around 2.000 boats, illegal operators now dominate the fishery, either fishing without licenses or using illegal fishing gear such as gillnets and compressor diving. The 580 artisanal vessels, of which 500 are sailboats called jangadas, that use lobster traps have stopped fishing fearing for the future of their livelihoods. Exports are set to drop from 2.500 tons of tails in 2010 to less then 1.000 this year. If stocks don’t recover 10.000 fishers are likely to be out of a job in 2013.

Available data indicates that stocks are in danger due to poor management and enforcement over the last 20 years that has allowed overfishing and destructive fishing to continue with impunity. Scientists can’t predict the point of no return, but people pray that Brazil’s lobster will not repeat what happened to cod in Canada 20 years ago, when the fishery collapsed, 30,000 fish workers lost their jobs and the stocks have still not recovered.

On October 30th fishers sent a letter to President Dilma Roussef asking her to close the lobster fishery until at least April 31 2014 in order to give the government and fishing sector time to revise fisheries management, invest in research and data collection and set up an enforcement system that works. The 18 month closure will give the lobster population a chance to recover from decades of excess and to reproduce undisturbed.

The fishers have prepared a 15 page proposal for management changes which includes the participation of fishers in management decisions and the certification of lobsters from responsible artisanal fisheries. Over 300 fishermen and fisherwomen converged in Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará, announced an unlimited strike and presented their demands to the public and media. Later they marched to the naval headquarters and asked the Navy to intervene in what has become known as the Lobster War.

Organizers of the protest are launching a worldwide campaign aimed at raising consumer awareness.

René Schärer, ICSF Member


Brazilian lobster fishery improvement project

English translation of the letter to President Dilma :



Send e-mails to:
For support and solidarity with fishers:
For comments and suggestions to improve the proposal:


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