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Flashback to 25 years of struggle for a land and sea reserve 

at the fishing village of Prainha do Canto Verde 

Ultimately, the existence of their village was at stake, as it is located in the middle of a 570km long coastline with endless sandy beaches, dunes and steep coastal cliffs.

Already for decades, local fishermen have been telling the international press and the scientific community about their struggle for the marine protected area established in 2009 – and have been telling me also.  

At the time, Prainha was considered worldwide as a model village due to the development of local, environmentally friendly tourism.

2004

Decades ago I also met co-author Sandra Weiss in Prainha for the first time. She was reporting for many newspapers about the main topics of the time: “local tourism” and “lobster pirates”. For more than two decades I also spent several months a year in Prainha, observing and reporting on the village for various TV stations and film festivals.

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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!

Back then, the Prainhans still earned part of their subsistence by fishing for lobsters on small flat traditional sailing boats called Jangadas. For 50 years they have tried to fend off the attack of the “lobster pirates and land-grabbing sharks”, but are literally losing more and more lobsters and land. The fishermen have had, and still have influential enemies who threaten the survival of the village’s marine and land conservation area, the so-called RESEX, and they even split the community.

In Prainha do Canto Verde, the crisis area has been shifted from the sea to the land issue.

Together we have followed the progress of RESEX since its founding, as well as the problems surrounding it over the years, among other aspects, how the oligarch Tales de Sé Cavalcante built a villa decades ago with illegal papers and used corrupt financial measures to divide the community of Prainha do Canto Verde.

Personal conclusions

2022 / 23

Personal conclusions

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Lindomar, one of our old acquaintances and interview partners, is adamant that today, in 2002, the locals no longer want to talk to journalists and academics, especially not to the “old European guard”. Although the latter possesses a great deal of prior local knowledge, classifying the condition of the village today as “poorer”, it is now accused of a kind of “white-nosed colonialism”. And perhaps not unjustly? What was considered progressive and environmentally friendly then has become outdated today. Lindomar forgets that for 30 years the village received considerable support from the European press, academia and NGOs, which led not least to the founding of RESEX. Some of the knowledge transfer has been retained, some has not.

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The people of Prainha are tired of the interviews and of being considered the role model. The have grown independent!

 

“Only someone who lives here can judge as to how well the situation is regarding the land and the ocean, the quality of life,” says Lindomar.

True. But the sense of community has also been lost. Instead, egoism, envy have spread in Prainha.

 

Especially under President Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2023) the fear of local political right-wing cronies spread. Fear of local political right-wing cronies has long dominated the village talk in Prainha. This poisoned the village climate. oung people are less interested in the protected area, some - including fishermen - have become drug addicts. Even under the new-old president “Lula” da Silva, the prospects of success for the preservation of RESEX in Prainha are unfortunately not exactly rosy.  The future of the RESEX is uncertain.

 

 

Not just from a European perspective:

2023

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.

2014

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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.

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Locals blame tourism for the drug epidemic

Once a world-wide model for local tourism as additional income, the people of Prainha now live almost exclusively from local tourism. However, if the legally established “RESEX” rules continue to be ignored, then “local” tourism will be put into question anyway. In addition, there is another contemporary problem.

Meanwhile, not only are the youth consuming drugs, but also some local fishermen are using new designer drugs and crack. Without disclosing names, Lindomar, a local activist and a member of the “old” residents’ association, blames the emergence of the drug mafia in the village on the foreign tourists.

"Where there are drug users there is also a trade!” And yes, – the state of Ceará is the main international narcotics distribution centre in the whole of Brazil.

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However, control over the preservation of the “RESEX” will not protect Prainha do Cante Verde from further natural hazards, neither from climate change nor from such regular climatic phenomena as “El Niño” and “La Niñha”, nor from acidification of the sea water, rising water temperature and rising sea level.

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