This is not a difficult question to answer: everyone in the social-ecological system will lose!! From the artisanal fishers to the Brazilian president and from the bottom to the top of the marine food web. In one of our latest posts, we learned that from the current government we should only expect unsustainable measures instead of measures that could benefit both fisheries and biodiversity conservation. In the foreseeable future, we can expect higher exploitation rates instead of control and protection of vulnerable stocks. As a consequence, fisheries could collapse affecting millions that depend directly or indirectly on this activity.
Almost one-third of global fisheries stocks are now overexploited or collapsed (FAO 2016), which is not different in Brazil. The last Brazilian Red List of Threatened Species was published in 2014 (Decree nº 445) and included 475 species of fish and marine invertebrates threatened with extinction (MMA 2104). Instead of being received as a warning sign that we should step on the break and adopt mitigating or precautionary measures, the Red List was met with strong opposition by the industrial fishery sector and even by some artisanal fishers. Those against the list argued about the economic effects this list would have on fishery-dependent people. Did they use any data to back up their claims? No. But I decided to check if fishers had any basis to oppose the list and what they would gain or lose if instead of fishing stocks uncontrollably, we decided to manage them (Silva 2018).
I investigated how many threatened fish species may disappear from the Brazilian coast in the following decades, and I checked if the fishers’ economic gains would improve or not if stocks were rebuilt. For that, I evaluated the status of specific fish stocks in the Brazilian coastline and explored different management scenarios to provide an overview of the major trends besetting fishers’ economic gains in the medium and long-term. I identified the main endangered fishes targeted by all coastal states and predicted the biomass and maximum sustainable yield for these species. I also created three management scenarios based on the reduction of fishing pressure, and calculated fishers’ revenue in these scenarios: scenario 1 (Current level – historical catch), scenario 2 (20% catch reduction due to management), and scenario 3 (50% catch reduction due to management).
Among the most abundant landed species, ten species were selected for the analyses: Alopias superciliosus (Bigeye thresher), Epinephelus morio (Red grouper), Hyporthodus niveatus (Snowy grouper), Kajikia albida (White marlin), Lopholatilus villarii (Tilefish), Lutjanus purpureus (Red snapper), Mycteroperca bonaci (Black grouper), Mycteroperca interstitialis (Yellowmouth grouper), Mustelus schmitti (Narrownose smooth-hound) and Sparisoma axillare (Yellowtail parrotfish). Artisanal fisheries target four of these selected species: L. purpureus, M. bonaci, M. interstitialis, and S. axillare. Industrial fisheries also catch L. purpureus and M. bonaci, in addition to catching H. niveatus, K. albida, A. superciliosus, M. schmitti, the E. morio, and L. villarii.
Four of these species actually seem to present increasing biomass: E. morio, L. purpureus, L. villari and M. schmitti. In contrast, six species are in risk of collapse (A. superciliosus, H. niveatus, K. albida, M. bonaci, M. interstitialis and S. axillare), and for two of them, the management scenarios we tested did not seem enough to bring them back (A. superciliosus and M. interstitialis) (Hellooooo!!!! These species need urgent help!!!). Here, I am presenting only the historical catch and predictions of these two most worrying fish stocks (Figure 1).
|Figure 1: Situation of the Brazilian fish stocks analyzed, highlighting the two most worrying declining fish stocks. The graphs show the historical catch (Historical) and predicted biomass (historical and 2100 prediction – Predictions) for Alopias superciliosus and Mycteroperca bonaci fish stocks.|
After we evaluated the effect of management on declining species, we found that fishers’ revenues should increase in the shortterm for A. superciliosus and M. interstitialis, but once these species collapse, theirrevenue will of course drop to zero.On the other hand, even though H. niveatus and M. bonaci showed highermarket prices than the first two ones, their revenues are expected to decrease in allscenarios because their catches are already decreasing.However, for K. albida and S. axillare, fishers’ revenues can be maintained andeven increased in the long-term if managers implement one of the management scenarios.
Failing to manage these species will keep fishers’ profit for a few years, but once theendangered species collapse all of their profits will drop to zero in a few years or decades, depending on the species.For these species, the future benefits that fish stocks can provide willdepend largely on how well they are rebuilt and managed. However, fishstocks can be rebuilt if Brazil takes the responsibility of assuring that fishers and fishes willnot be losers. Short-term pain is necessary for a long-term gain and it is up to the country to make sure that the pain is not felt the strongest by the poorest and most vulnerable fishing groups.
Summing up, I am saying that the fish stocks in Brazil present declining biomass pattern, reinforcing the need to implement urgent conservation strategies. Management actions that forces catch to decrease could be crucial to support the rebuild of these fish stocks and to maintain fishers’ livelihoods in Brazil in the long term.
Although there is an effort to protect fisheries in Brazil with the Decree nº 445, it is not done seriously by the government. Brazil's Red List has been facing a political battle to define management measures, worsening an already serious problem and ignoring the consequences for the environment and society. The recent update about this novel, it is the request for temporary suspension of the decree by the current Minister for the Environment. To keep things not so good, the Brazilian government is firing people for doing their jobs.
An employee from IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) lost his position at the environmental agency because he arrested the president of Brazil for fishing in an ecological preserve where fishing is an environmental crime.
Well, there is something wrong in this, we are going against what has been done around the world to protect marine biodiversity. We need governments to wake up and take responsibility for the devastating impact of overfishing, instead of presidents who really do not care about environmental issues. The future of all components of the fishing industry chain can be gloomier than ever if the government (and society) close their eyes for what has been happening. Let’s move because we all can be losers!!!
By Monalisa Silva