What is a fish worth? Here, a shopper opens his wallet in Brazil’s northeastern state of Ceará. Species like Atlantic mackerel and yellowtail snapper line the sand, for sale.
It’s an informal scene – but a crucial one. More than 3 million people depend on fisheries in Brazil. Yet, the government has taken a worryingly lax approach to fisheries management. It collected almost no data on commercial catch in the last decade. The stock status of species like the mackerel and snapper above remains unknown.
“We have huge challenges for fisheries management in Brazil,” said oceanographer Ademilson Zamboni, Vice President of Oceana Brazil. “The government has a poor database and weak inspection.” Fisheries sectors already voluntarily disclose information, he said, “because they know that without data, we can’t manage fisheries.”
Oceana Brazil has urged the government to monitor its fisheries since 2014. In 2018, for the first time, the country adopted digital logbooks and quotas to track and limit the catch of tainha – or mullet – a popular food species that fell into decline in recent years. It is the first official monitoring effort in recent years and could point the way ahead for the country.
“Quotas help protect marine life and strengthen the network of information and solidarity between fishers and managers,” Zamboni said. And monitoring mullet sets an example for other fisheries, he said. “It’s a huge victory!”