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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2020)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
    • Inland sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: Seprember, 2020.

In Brazil, it is estimated that about 3.5 million people are directly or indirectly involved in fisheries and aquaculture. In 2019, total capture fisheries production was 710 333 tonnes. Given the abundance of rich freshwater bodies, more than 30 percent of capture fisheries production come from inland fisheries. The majority (more than 60 percent) of the total fish landings originate from artisanal fisheries, which represent more than 90 percent of the employment in the capture sector. These proportions are higher if only the inland fisheries are considered. In 2018, the latest estimates included a total of 1083778 full-time fishers, 64 percent of them in marine waters were reported. Artisanal fisheries production dominates in the northern regions while industrial fisheries are more important in the southern region. Half of the fishers were reported to be women.

Several coastal fishery resources are fully exploited or over-exploited, generally by industrial fishing. Although some inland fish stocks are also overexploited, it is still possible to increase capture fisheries production from inland waters, given appropriate management plans. In 2019, the fishing fleet was estimated at 21 732 vessels, with the large majority under 12 meters in length and about one third without motor.

Aquaculture offers the largest potential to increase fish supplies in the long-term. Brazil, the second largest aquaculture producer in the region, rose from 172 500 tonnes produced in 2000 to about 600 280 tonnes in 2019, with over 80 percent of total aquaculture production from freshwater aquaculture (tilapia, carps and some indigenous Amazonian fish species) and 14 percent from mariculture, dominated by whiteleg shrimp. There is no information available regarding the number of people engaged in the aquaculture.

Brazil is the largest importer of fish in the Latin American region importing worth for USD 1.4 billion in 2018, while the export in the same year was at USD 275 million. Annual per caput consumption, which has been substantially increasing in recent years through massive promotion campaigns, was estimated at about 9.5 kg in 2020.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data – Brazil

Shelf area

742,308 km2

Length of continental coastline

7,491 Km

Fisheries Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

No data available


Key statistics


Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2020. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

Table 2 - General Geographic and Economic Data – Brazil

      1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2016 2017 2018
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 520,00 580,00 661,10 895,04 1083,78 1083,78 1083,78 1083,78
  Aquaculture 0 0 0 41,811 41,811 41,811 41,811 41,811
  Capture 520,00 580,00 661,10 853,23 1041,97 1041,97 1041,97 1041,97
    Inland 140 190 233,2 306,474 219,693 219,693 219,693 219,693
    Marine 380 390 427,9 546,755 822,274 822,274 822,274 822,274
FLEET (thousands boats) 77,89 77,83 86,80 86,80 108,35 108,35 108,35 108,35
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up  

Please Note:Fishery statistical data here presented exclude the production for marine mammals, crocodiles, corals, sponges, pearls, mother-of-pearl and aquatic plants.


Updated 2020Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorBrazil is a country of continental dimensions that is divided into five main geographical regions: North, Northeast, Southeast, South and Midwest. The following section describes the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in these regions. The Northeast region is the largest in terms of volume of production and revenues generated by fisheries and aquaculture, followed by the Northern region and the Southeast region. Artisanal or small-scale fisheries dominate in the North, Northeast and Midwest regions of Brazil, while industrial fisheries are predominant in the Southeast and South regions.

Given the abundance of rich freshwater bodies, more than 30 percent of capture fisheries production come from inland fisheries. The majority (more than 60 percent) of the total fish landings originate from artisanal fisheries, which represent more than 90 percent of the employment in the capture sector.

Marine sub-sectorCatch profileIn general, marine fisheries accounts for about half of the recorded Brazilian production. Most of this catch consists of fish (75 percent), followed by crustaceans (20 percent) and molluscs (4 percent). The importance of crustaceans in total marine capture production has increased in recent years to the expense of finfish production.

Landing sitesIn Brazil, fish landings occur in 17 coastal States and their many fishing terminals, as well as other harbours and sites in every coastal state. For marine fisheries, the two most important coastal States are Santa Catarina and Rio de Janeiro. The main landings sites are Itajaí (Santa Catarina), Rio de Janeiro, Belém (Pará), Santos (São Paulo), São Luíz (Maranhão), and Rio Grande do Sul.

Fishing practices/systemsIn the Northern region most industrial vessels use trawls, while artisanal fishers use mainly gillnets. In the Northeast region, fishing for crustaceans (lobster) is done with traps. Tunas and similar species are caught by pelagic longlines, trawls are used in shrimp fisheries and gill nets for finfish. In the Southeast region purse seines predominate in the sardine fisheries, gill nets are used for finfish, and skipjack are caught mainly by live bait boats. Bottom trawls are used for shrimp, pots and traps for octopus, and traps for deepwater crustaceans (mostly crabs). In the Southern region, fisheries are quite similar to those of the Southeast, especially in the use of purse seines, fishing with live bait and the use of gill nets.

The number of industrial vessels is approximately 500, with the majority gill-netters, purse seiners and trawlers. The number of artisanal boats exceeds 100 000 units. About one third of these boats is not motorized.

Main resourcesThe three most important products from the coastal fisheries are shrimp (white, pink and seabob), sardine and lobster. Shrimp and lobster are heavily exploited and no major expansions are likely.

Offshore fishing is done mainly by longliners that catch tunas and similar large species (albacore, yellowfin, swordfish, bigeye, shark, etc.). In addition, sardines are caught by industrial purse seiners. Tuna and sardines could be the basis for some catch expansion.

Management applied to main fisheriesBrazil, in view of its continental dimensions, has regionalized its fisheries management. However, if one fish stock is in danger, it is supposed to be managed jointly by two or more regions. One of these cases is the lobster fishery, which occurs along the Atlantic coast of both the Northern and the Northeast states of Brazil with a resource heavily exploited.
Management objectives

The government is responsible for regulating the National Policy for the Sustainable Development of Fishing Activity, reconciling the balance between the principle of sustainability of fishing resources and achieving better economic and social results.

Management measures and institutional arrangements

Since decades the institutional arrangements for fisheries, management is shared between Institute of the Environment and Renewable Resources (IBAMA) under the Ministry of Environment and the institution in charge of fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture. This arrangement has not facilitated proper fisheries management in the past.

The main coastal fisheries in Brazil (inter alia lobsters, snappers and shrimp in the North, sardines in the South) have been managed by a set of management measures which integrate closed seasons and closed areas, minimum permitted size at landing, gear type and size limitations, and, in some cases, satellite tracking of vessels. In Brazil all vessels with a total length greater than 15 meters are subject to satellite tracking. In addition, satellite tracking is compulsory for vessels over 10 meters in the lobster fishery. During the fishing ban, Brazilian lobster fishers receive a salary integration by the government.
Inland sub-sectorFishery production in fresh and brackish waters is essentially artisanal.  Most of this production is provided by the Amazon basin, and the principal species are catfish, piramutaba and dourada, while some other species, like curimatã and jaraqui, are also important.

In the rivers systems of the northeast, tilapia and traíra are the principal species. In the rivers of west-central Brazil, in waters with better productivity, the main species are catfish, surubim, pintado and piau.  In the southeast and south, fishing occurs in reservoirs, but in smaller quantities than in the other regions.

Catch profileThe principal species caught in the Brazilian inland fisheries are catfish, piramutaba and dourada, while some other species, like curimatã and jaraqui, are also important. In the rivers systems of the northeast, tilapia and traíra are the principal species. In the rivers of west-central Brazil, in waters with better productivity, the main species are catfish, surubim, pintado and piau.  In the southeast and south, fishing occurs in reservoirs, but in smaller quantities than in the other regions.

Landing sitesThe main area for inland fisheries is the State of Amazon. Landing sites exist all along the main rivers and lakes. The most important landings sites for inland fisheries are Manaus, Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais) and Cuiabá (Mato Grosso). Fishing practices/systemsThe most commonly used fishing gear is the gill net (99 percent of the catch). Depending on the species caught the material is used, for example, for catching larger fish, it is common to use nylon because it is more resistant. The "plomada", which is the sequence of weights sewn into the bottom line of the net, is also used, to allow the net to reach the deepest area. Fishing boats are small canoes; some are more than 40 years old. In general, the high age of the boats creates a risk for the fishers.

Main resources

Despite the immense diversity of fish in the Amazonia, estimated at around 3 000 species, only a very small portion of this is commercially exploited, (about 100 species), of which 90 percent is concentrated in the landing in a few species, among which stand out: the cachama or tambaquí (pacú) (Colossoma macropomum), the mouthchico or curimat (Prochilodus nigris) , the jaraqui (Semaprochilodus spp.), matrinx (Brycon spp.), pacú (Mylossoma spp.) and the sergeant or tucunaré (Cichla ocellaris). Due to this concentration of fishing effort in some species, there is evidence that some fish stocks are being exploited above capacity, as is the case of the cachama, which is the most consumed by the local population.

Management applied to main fisheriesIn the Amazonas area a fishing and fish marketing ban called pyrema is imposed during the breeding period, which is respected from 15 November to 15 March.

Fishing communitiesFishing is extremely important for indigenous communities in the Amazonas area. Fish is one the main source of food for these populations. Per capita consumption in these areas is estimated to exceed 100 kg. Some authors even estimate consumption in the Amazonas area ahead of 200 kg per person per year.

Aquaculture sub-sectorAquaculture has seen an important growth in the last decade of the last century, and this growth has continued since. Thus, production increased from 170 000 tonnes at the turn of the century, to 300 000 tonnes in 2010 and over 600 000 tonnes in 2019. Tilapia is driving this growth. Shrimp farms began operating in Brazil during the 1980s, but it was only after 1995, after the introduction of Penaeus vannamei, that the industry experienced a period of rapid development. In 2003, a record of 90 000 tonnes was reached. Since then, production has declined, especially due to various disease problems, and has stabilized at about 60 000 tonnes.

The success story of aquaculture in Brazil is the one of tilapia culture. At present, Brazil is number four among world tilapia producers, just behind China, Indonesia and Egypt.

At the outset of aquaculture production, the idea was to produce for the export market, but soon producers realized that the domestic market and the domestic prices were better than the ones in the foreign markets, so at present about 99 percent of the tilapia production stays in Brazil. Shrimp aquaculture, on the contrary, is still mainly going to the international market, even though a strengthening of the domestic shrimp market is reported.

Recreational sub-sectorRecreational fisheries have grown in Brazil in recent years. The sector attracts both nationals and foreigners. With over four and a half thousand miles of Atlantic coastline, Brazil's saltwater fishing is attractive to deep sea recreational fishers. This fishery concentrates on large pelagic fish such as blue and white marlin, sailfish, mahi mahi, yellowfin and bigeye tuna, and wahoo. For the inshore fishing, the target species are tarpon, snook, jack crevalle, and mangrove snapper year-round. Recreational fishing in the Amazonas is strictly catch-and-release. Main species caught include peacock bass, piraíba. pirara (redtail catfish) and payara (vampire fish).

Post-harvest sector

Fish utilizationMost of the fish produced in Brazil is used for human consumption. Most of the freshwater fish and the tilapia from aquaculture are consumed in fresh form. In addition, some frozen hake from Argentina and frozen salmon from Chile is present, especially in supermarkets. Traditional consumption preference exists for wet salted cod from Norway, however, due to price considerations, this product has been replaced in recent years by wet salted sharks, produced by local processors.

Fish marketsThe largest cities are also the biggest markets. Among them São Paulo, with more than ten million inhabitants, and Rio de Janeiro, with over six million inhabitants, stand out. Manaus is the main market for Amazonas fish.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector

Role of fisheries in the national economyFisheries and aquaculture represent little more than 0.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Brazil, which means they have low importance in the national economy, however, locally fisheries play a significant role in the economy.

TradeDespite the expanding aquaculture industry, Brazil is not self-sufficient with regard to fish products. Brazil will still import substantial amounts of fish, such as hake from Argentina and Uruguay, cod from Norway and salmon from Chile. The value of fish imports was USD 1 292 million in 2019, while exports earned USD 411 million, resulting in a trade deficit of USD 881 million. Fish imports have declined in recent years, mainly due to the difficult economic situation of the country.

Food security

Overall, Brazil is a red meat consuming country, and the importance of fish as a supplier of animal protein is very limited. Actual per caput consumption varies greatly among regions and states, both in terms of quantity and of type of fish consumed. In 2020, the supply of fish per capita in Brazil reached the best level ever: 9.5 kg/inhabitant/year. However, this record is still far below the world average of about 20 kg. The level of consumption varies from 5 kg in the Rio Grande do Sul State to 35 kg in the Amazonas. With the strategy of diversifying the dietary habit of proteins and stimulating the consumption of all types of fish, molluscs and crustaceans, the Brazilian government promotes fish consumption, but consumers mention high prices as a stumbling block to increasing fish consumption.

EmploymentThe number of people registered as fishers exceeds one million; some authors estimate the total number of people working in the fisheries and aquaculture value chain to exceed 3.5 million. Of the people employed in fisheries, 20 percent are engaged in inland fisheries and 75 percent in marine fisheries. The aquaculture sector involves over 40 000 people. The share of women in total employment is 45 percent, mainly employed in the fish processing and trading sector.

Rural developmentFisheries plays an important role in inland communities as providers of employment and protein supply. In some isolated marine fishing communities, the importance of the sector is also great.

Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunitiesCurrently, most fisheries are carried out by obsolete fleets and are mainly directed at fish stocks that are already heavily exploited, resulting in low efficiency. The resources are generally overexploited, leaving little room for increased production from the marine environment.

The expansion of production in continental waters is also limited due to negative anthropogenic actions in the environment, including dam construction, pollution, deforestation, soil depletion, destruction of some lagoons and predatory fishing.

Similarly, the marine artisanal fisheries are constrained by the over-exploitation of the main resources, namely shrimp and lobster. Industrial fisheries could grow to certain extent, as the tuna and the sardine resources could create some opportunities for catch expansion.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesThe dissolving of the Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries has resulted in a downgrading of the sector in the overall government development policy.

Research, education and trainingResearchThe State agency Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (EMBRAPA) is carrying out various research activities. One recent project is the Aquaculture Territorial Intelligence System project has as main objective to develop a Strategic Territorial Intelligence System (SITE) applied to subsidize the management of aquaculture in the Amazon biome. Another project concentrates on the technology transfer for competitiveness of Amazonian fish farming, called PeixeMais Amazônia, concentrating on two Amazonian species: the tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) and the pirarucu (Arapaima gigas). The main objective is to promote technology transfer and innovation in the productive chain of native fish species in the region. Public and private universities are also involved in research activities on fisheries and aquaculture.

Education and trainingThe Ministry of Education is giving training and capacity building to women involved in fish processing.

Foreign aidThe Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME) + Project is a 5-year project (2015-2020) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and co-financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It assists participating countries from two Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) in improving the management of their shared Living Marine Resources through an Ecosystem-Based Management approach: the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem and the North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem. The combination of those two LMEs is referred to as the CLME+ region, bordered by over 35 States and Territories: the Caribbean & North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems. This vast marine area (4.4 million km2) is a major contributor to regional economic development and is key to many globally relevant ecological processes.

Institutional frameworkFisheries and aquaculture is handled by the Secretariat of Aquaculture and Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply. In the past, the sector had a dedicated Ministry. IBAMA under the Ministry of Environment is responsible for fisheries management.

Legal frameworkThe Law No. 11.959 of 2009 on Sustainable Development Policy on Fisheries and Aquaculture establishes the National Policy for the Sustainable Development of Aquaculture and Fisheries. This Policy is formulated, coordinated and implemented with the objective of promoting: the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture as a source of food, employment, income and leisure, guaranteeing the sustainable use of fishery resources, as well as the optimization of the resulting economic benefits, in harmony with the preservation and conservation of the environment and biodiversity; management, promotion and monitoring of fishing activity; the preservation, conservation and recovery of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems; the socioeconomic, cultural and professional development of those who carry out the fishing activity, as well as their communities. In addition, it provides main guidelines for the development of Fishery and Aquaculture, with the view to ease the access to structures and instruments required. It pays a special attention to ensuring a sustainable use of the needed resources.



CLME Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem
EMBRAPA Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GEF Global Environment Facility
IBAMA Institute of the Environment and Renewable Resources
INFOPESCA Centre for Marketing Information and Advisory Services for Fishery Products in Latin America and the Caribbean
LME Large Marine Ecosystem
SITE Strategic Territorial Intelligence System
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
USD United States of America Dollar

Isaac V. (2011) El consumo de pescado en la Amazonía brasileña, FAO.
Kubitza F. (2016) Acuacultura Brasileña: Limitaciones y desafíos, Acqua Imagem, Brasil.
Maciel, E. et al. (2013) Application of exploratory factor analysis to assess fish consumption in a university community. Food Sci. Technol (Campinas) [online]. vol.33, n.1, pp.99-106.  Epub Mar 08, 2013. ISSN 1678-457X.  https://doi.org/10.1590/S0101-20612013005000016.
Morais Borges A. (2010) O mercado do pescado em Brasília, INFOPESCA.
Pinheiro Neiva C. et. al. (2010) O mercado do pescado da Região Metropolitana de São Paulo, INFOPESCA.

Additional information

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