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Artisanal fishery in the Patos Lagoon
Artisanal fishery in the Patos Lagoon
Credits: Daniela Kalikoski
Ecosystem approach to artisanal and coastal gillnet fisheries in southern Brazil

The southern extension of the Brazilian EEZ has unique characteristics of habitat, fauna, productivity, oceanography and fishing activities that make it a distinctive ecosystem. Primary productivity is driven by the seasonal confluence of water masses from the Falkland (Malvinas) and Brazil currents. The confluence of water masses and the high volume of continental runoff provide physical and chemical conditions for high biological production on the shelf. The relatively wide continental shelf and the rich benthic community favoured the development of industrial trawling activities in this region, mostly for shrimps and demersal fish. Other important fisheries in the region are coastal gillnet fisheries and artisanal multi-gear fisheries that operate in coastal lagoons, estuaries and shallow coastal waters of southern Brazil.  

Historically the productive estuarine and shelf waters of southern Brazil have supported important artisanal and industrial fishing activities. However during the last decades fisheries in the region have been going through a crisis, with a drastic decrease in landings and the overexploitation of important stocks, including sharks, croaker, catfish, mullets and pink shrimp.  Other issues of concern in the region include fisheries bycatch and discard affecting commercial fish stocks and endangered fauna (e.g. turtles and dolphins). Multiple sources of impacts in the coastal zone are also affecting the carrying capacity of estuarine areas and potentially impacting the productivity of fish stocks, including the obliteration of sea grasses and salt marshes, changes in freshwater flow, pollution and contamination of estuarine areas.

Different initiatives have been promoted and implemented to create an enabling environment for addressing the causes of the unsustainability of local fisheries.
Artisanal fishery in the Patos Lagoon
Artisanal fishery in the Patos Lagoon
Credits: Daniela Kalikoski
At the local level artisanal fisheries organizations have established a co-management arrangement with the objective to promote actions and policies to recover the productive capacity of the Patos Lagoon and to foster the sustainability of artisanal fisheries. On another front, scientists and governmental officials have been proposing the adoption of alternative management approaches to industrial demersal fisheries, including the definition of management areas with established limits of fishing capacity.

The above context created a unique opportunity to foster the implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries in southern Brazil, one that takes into account all types of uses and interactions in the ecosystem and strive to balance the optimal use of marine resources and the maintenance of ecosystems in the log run.  With the objective to develop local capacity in the implementation of EAF, a case study was initiated focusing on artisanal and coastal gillnet fisheries. Two workshops were held with scientists, government officials and fishery representatives in 2006 and 2007 to identify the issues affecting the sustainability of the fisheries and to discuss priority areas for research and management. Results obtained so far with the case study are being used by governmental officials to develop a programme of work on the implementation of an ecosystem to fisheries in the region.

 
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