The lobster season began at the start of the month and for the first time in a long time, the men fishing within the waters of the reserve are reporting an increase in production. They are still not catching as much as they should be, or frankly as much as they need to live by but there has been a definite improvement, a quick very unscientific survey of returning boats the other day had each boat reporting between 2 and 4 kilo of tails, some men tell me they have had days of better catches but also days with nothing.
This increase has come about purely because IBAMA and ICMbio carried out regular patrols in the Marine Protected Area here, keeping the illegal fishers out prior to the season’s commencement. This year the MPA finally got the extra protection that it should have had since its creation in 2009. Unfortunately these patrols stopped on the day the season opened and the illegal fishers are slowly creeping back in, with the fishermen reporting an increasing number of sightings.
The fishermen know that any increase in illegal activity will seriously prejudice their catch rate, without the patrols the fishermen believe the waters of the reserve will soon be over run with illegal boats once again. Further up the coast where the patrols did not take place, the fishermen are reporting the numbers of illegal boats to be so great, as to make it is difficult for the legal fishers to find a place to fish and the men of Prainha fear that when the illegal boats have fished out the other areas they will move here, as some are already doing. The mens fears have been reported to the authorities but so far their requests for the patrols to recommence have gone unanswered.
Last year fishermen’s groups got together to work out and then present to government a list of proposals aimed at saving the lobster industry, with the ultimate goal of certification for Brazilian lobster, demonstrating to the world a quality product, sustainably fished. The proposals called for a ban on lobster fishing for an 18 month period, to allow stocks to increase, long over due changes in management and control to be instated and the illegal fishers to be removed from the water once and for all ( wp.me/phWIc-d4 for more on the proposals). Sadly the response was very limited and the calls for the fishery to be closed went unheeded. Obviously the pre season patrols in the MPA here were a good thing but they are an infinitesimally small drop in the ocean of problems facing the lobster industry in Brazil.
If the increase in production within the reserves waters continues throughout the season (which is doubtful as production normally drops off after the first month or two, even without an increase in predatory fishing), it will take the legal fishermen from a situation of economic loss to breaking even, or if they are very lucky, a small profit but that is only here in this tiny area, whilst the illegal fishers continue to rape the sea along the whole of the vast North East coastline, rake in the money (well those behind the illegal fishers make the money) and not give a toss about the future of the lobster or the thousands of people who depend on it.
©Claire Pattison Valente 2013