Small- and large-scale fishing associations and unions in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina have decided to collect data on their landings in the tainha (local name for mullet) fishing season voluntarily. They are building a database fed through a computer app that stores information on catches, types of fishing gear, as well as place and date of landings. Oceana provides technical support to that effort and assists fisherfolk in organizing their monitoring processes. It also follows all stages during the process of entering and analyzing data. Since June 9, total catches have been published in real time on the “Tainhometer”, a digital panel showing real-time production of tainha in the state in the 2017 season, at www.tainhometro.com.br. So far, over 600 tons of tainha landed on the coast of Santa Catarina have been recorded by the following organizations: Santa Catarina Coastal Fishers Association (APPAECSC), Fishers Federation of Santa Catarina State (FEPESC), Industrial Fishing Union of Itajaí (SINDIPI) and Pastoral Council of Fishers (CPP).
The initiative to voluntarily monitor the tainha season has three main goals. First, to show the government that it is possible to know the amount of tainha caught in real time; second, to collect information to ensure updated studies and the adjustments necessary for scientific and high-quality management of that fishery. Finally, to empower fishermen who will be able, for the first time, to show the socioeconomic importance of the activity and demand the necessary public policies for the development of fishing – which is an economic activity and needs to be treated as such. The lack of serious government policy for data monitoring and analysis as well as fisheries control can no longer serve as an excuse for not adopting measures that are already successfully used in several parts of the world.
“Voluntary monitoring of fishing is an innovative and exciting initiative”, says Oceana director-general Mônica Peres. “I think we have finally understood that it is no use just complaining and we have shown that it is possible to monitor and control tainha landings during fishing season. This proves that organized society can take the lead in a process that will demand modern and effective management measures. We want stock assessments and catch limits, integrated with management plans that are widely discussed with society. There is no more room for guesswork and authoritarianism”, she adds.
“Without the information that comes directly from sea to land, the government won’t be able to plan fishing, and since they don’t monitor it, we’ll do it ourselves”, explains Aguinaldo dos Santos, coordinator of Sindipi’s Purse Seine Sector Chamber.
Ricardo João Rego, president of APPAECSC, explains that it is interesting to combine research and actual fishing as shown in the joint information survey. “We are joining forces to do what we were already doing separately, towards the common goal of pursuing a fisheries policy that really knows the reality of the sea, because the policy we have today is not based on what happens in fisherfolk’s daily lives”, he says.
FEPESC president Ivo da Silva also points out that the survey shows not only the amounts caught; the databases are also collecting data on types of fishing, which is very important for further studies on catching practices for tainha and other species. “If we can do it with tainha, we can do it with the other species we catch”, he says.
Tainha (Mugil liza) fishing has huge socioeconomic and cultural importance in southern Brazil. It provides jobs, income and food security for thousands of families and produces high-quality protein for the population. However, in recent years the number of tainhas caught in high-yield seasons – such as 2007 – was higher than their ability for biological recovery and therefore the stock is overfished. This means that the biomass – the amount – of tainha at sea is lower than the level that could generate the best yields for fishing. Failure to take the necessary measures to reverse this overfishing will allow increasing environmental, economic and social damages.
The government has been trying to solve the problem through a set of measures that include restrictions on fishing gear, areas, times and a progressive reduction in the number of vessels holding fishing permits. Reducing the number of vessels without any technical rationale or proper planning has caused socioeconomic losses, besides being quite questionable from the point of view of conservation and management of that stock.
A recent study by Oceana proposes an alternative solution for reducing the number of vessels: an annual catch limit or “quota” of 4,300 tons for each tainha fishing season. The quota is one of the most common management measures in countries known for good fishery management and is certainly the most efficient and socially fair way to avoid overfishing of resources exploited in single-species fisheries. However, the proposal has faced resistance from Federal Government officials who argue that real-time monitoring and control of the number of tainhas captured would not be possible.