( part of the"RESEX" )
The marine reserve was originally established to protect against piracy in the lobster fishery, which until about a decade ago was the main source of income for Prainha’s fishermen!
Young men do not want to
fish any more
The youth of today is well-trained in tourism occupations that are accessible on the internet, thanks to the “local tourism projects” sponsored by European NGOs in the first years after the “RESEX” was founded. Young women, also, marry later and are in employment. They often look for jobs in a nearby town, but most of them still want to live in Prainha.
Although the lads are proud of their fishing fathers, occasionally helping to launch and land their father’s jangada, but they are at most “hobby fishermen”. Rather than go fishing at a young age out on the open ocean like their fathers, they prefer to compete with self-made models in shallow water.
Without a new generation of fishermen in Prainha, is the “RESEX” at all tenable in future, or will it be defended only because they get some unemployment benefit in the closed season?
A lesson in net fishing: although “Neu’s” kidney disease has indeed worsened (see trailer), he can still pull himself up in order to share some old knowledge for the purpose of self-sufficient fishing with his son Luan, even though Luan, who grew up bilingual and indeed wants to live in Prainha, does not want to be a fisherman.
How does an Englishwoman live in Prainha do Canto Verde?
The story of Claire & Neu
The Londoner Claire is married to the fisherman Arineu, called “Neu” from Prainha. She is a teacher, a local photographer, and has lived in Prainha for two decades and earlier used to fish often with her husband on his jangada in the open sea. Then his kidneys failed, he could no longer handle his job and had to sell the jangada. Until shortly before the pandemic Claire worked actively on the local advisory board of the state “RESEX” monitoring body in order to preserve the village, until it again once more became too dangerous for her as a ‘foreigner’.
Entire film in English:
At the beginning of the century, lobsters were the main source of income, but according to Claire’s husband “Neu” they disappeared despite the measures taken more than a decade ago. (Video)
According to him, because of the lack of lobsters many commercial fishermen nowadays fish only one or two days a week, even in the permitted season.
"RESEX" rules impose a 6-month closed season during which they are not allowed to catch spiny lobsters. Theoretically, they cannot engage in commercial fishing on the high seas with jangadas during this period either. As compensation they receive unemployment benefits. For their subsistence they often tide themselves over with net fishing in the shallow sea.
Acording to this fisherman, if during the spiny lobster closed season you create a barrier several metres wide in the shallow sea in good conditions, you can catch up to 30 fish.
Empty plastic bottles which float keep the net on the surface, while PET bottles filled with sand fix it to the seabed.
What has happened in the marine reserve
since the "RESEX" was founded in 2009?
As in the cases of the problematic sale of land, the protection measures established for the marine reserve were likewise not respected in 2022. Nevertheless, they do not affect the community as a whole so much anymore, because the people live mainly from tourism now. Nowadays, it is also questioned whether a marine protected area in Prainha still serves any valid purpose. Under Bolsonaro’s right-wing regime, the budgets of the Ministry of the Environment and its control bodies were practically cut to zero even before the pandemic. The monitoring by the state controlling organisations “Chico Mendes” and “ICMBio”, which are responsible for the “RESEX”, was also affected and came to a complete standstill during the pandemic.
Although these organisations are legally obliged to provide comprehensive information, the last entry by the “Instituto Chico Mendes” on the state home-page about the situation in Prainha do Canto Verde was made in 2017.
Of all people, it was the members of the counter-residents association (which wants to dissolve “RESEX”) who filed a complaint back then about the inadequate control of biodiversity in the marine reserve, namely about the fact that there are more and more dolphins and sea turtles washed ashore and caught in fishing nets.
© Claire Pattison- Valente
After that there was no more news on the state information website. Regular updates are again planned for 2023 after the Lula government has reorganised the control bodies.
In a “RESEX”, the fishermen are actually obliged to respect protected marine animals, because unfortunately they often get caught in the trawl nets of large external fishing vessels, and they cannot free themselves and are then washed ashore dead or injured.
Before the collapse of the fishery a decade ago, food security was a priority in Prainha; they shared the catch in each case among themselves according to set rules.
Lobsters were reserved for sale.
What was left of the lobster colonies along the coast in north-eastern Brazil until a decade ago either migrated to colder water zones due to the warming of the ocean, or was plucked from the seabed by lobster pirates with diving equipment. Under the Bolsonaro government the pirate boats were no longer subject to systematic control and prosecution by the Ministry of the Environment and were largely given free rein.
For the Prainhans, who no longer fish in large quantities, this is not their main problem anymore nowadays.
Over the years some fisheries projects have collapsed
For decades, NGOs and scientists have shown and financed alternatives to traditional fishing for local fishermen. However, only a few years after the studies or projects were finished and handed over to them, the whole thing mostly fell apart.
The local Jangada regattas, a popular competition among fishermen for the best sailing techniques, were also stopped during the pandemic and have not resumed since.
This is how the fish tank looks today. The idea of small-scale fish farming at home remained a pure fantasy. At the time it was too foreign for the fishermen, as long as they could still feed themselves from the sea.
In the year 2002 a shipbuilding school for catamarans was organised by Réne Schärer, financed with NGO funds. Catamarans are faster and less labour intensive, but were then already six times more expensive than a traditional Jangada:
Then when the shipbuilding teacher died, the project fell apart. What remained of the knowledge transfer was that the fishermen learned to build according to plans and became good carpenters. Today, two half-ruined model catamarans are still parked on the beach.
Some of these failed projects were also way ahead of their time. Environmental protection at the turn of the century was something for scientists and people specifically interested and with enough foresight; traditional fishermen at that time were mostly overwhelmed by alternative ideas.
Wth the newly activated global awareness of resource conservation that has spilled over via the Amazon into other parts of Brazil, these projects would have a far better chance of surviving today.