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Creating Sustainable Fisheries in
Brazil’s Abrolhos Region


By recognizing the deep connection between the ocean’s bounty and the prosperity of local communities, CI made waves with an innovative approach to ocean protection and management — one that helped to transform lives and livelihoods in an entire region dependent upon the riches of the sea.

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      EditImage Description: Map of the Abrolhos Seascape, Brazil
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      The old parable says that if you teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime. But what if there were no fish to be caught?

      In the Abrolhos region of Brazil’s Bahia state, CI and its network of partners are working to make sure that never happens.

      The coastal waters there contain the most diverse concentration of marine life in the south Atlantic. The vibrant corals and extensive mangroves shelter hundreds of species, many of which live their entire lives within a few kilometers of the shore, providing residents of the region with their primary source of protein. But in recent decades, illegal fishing and destructive industrial and aquaculture practices increasingly threatened that abundance — and the livelihoods of the local communities who suffered the consequences.

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      EditCarousel Title:The Beauty of Abrolhos
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        EditCaption Description:Harpoon boat on the shore, near the small fishing town of Barra in Bahia state.
        EditPhoto Credit:© Cristina Mittermeier/iLCP

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        EditCaption Description:A young girl plays on the beach in Barra.
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        Edit Caption Description:The shallow coral reefs of Abrolhos Marine National Park contain the highest levels of biodiversity in the south Atlantic, harboring many species found nowhere else on Earth.
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        Edit Caption Description:Lighthouse on Isla Santa Barbara, part of an archipelago in Abrolhos Marine National Park.
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        Edit Caption Description:A harpoon fisherman surveys the shallow coral. Free diving after their prey, harpoon fishermen target reef species like trigger fish and parrotfish.
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        Edit Caption Description:A green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) feeding on seagrasses (genus Halodule) off Santa Barbara Island. Both species are increasingly threatened by coastal development and other human activities.
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        Edit Caption Description:Although rhodoliths closely resemble coral, they are actually calcium-rich algae formations that absorb carbon and are resistant to many environmental disturbances. This specimen was photographed in front of Isla Santa Barbara in Abrolhos Marine National Park.
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        Edit Caption Description:A crab fisherman in Bahia state. Since the 1970s, unsustainable fishing practices have caused sharp declines in crab, shrimp and other fish stocks; CI's efforts to enhance protection of the Abrolhos region will help to secure these vitally important food sources.
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        Now, the tide is turning. By supporting the creation of the Corumbau Marine Extractive Reserve, CI helped to demonstrate how truly understanding and valuing the natural capital that sustains communities can pay far-reaching dividends. Through the establishment of both protected no-take zones and areas that allow fishing, the fish populations not only recovered — they thrived. And, as the fish from the no-take zones spilled over into the fishable waters, local fishermen saw an increase in their catch — nearly tripling their take of some commercially-important species alone.

        This bounty not only directly improved the livelihoods of local communities, it revitalized the regional economy as well, bringing with it the expansion of services like electricity and secondary education — services to which many in the region had never before had access. These positive changes also led to new, more sustainable opportunities in tourism, now the primary source of income in the region.

        When CI began its program in Brazil, Abrolhos Marine National Park was the only marine protected area in the region. Since then, CI has helped to nearly quadruple the area protected and co-managed with local communities. And through ongoing scientific research into the connections between ecosystems, CI continues to inform marine protection practices that safeguard both biodiversity and human well-being.

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        EditSection Title:Working Together
        EditSection Description:CI works with many partners – from the heads of families to heads of state – to restore our planet's balance so that people everywhere can thrive. It's a serious mission but, as these stories highlight, it's a personal one as well.
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        EditImage 1 Alt Text:Albino Neves
        EditImage 1 Photo Credit:© Conservation International/photo by Peter Stonier
        EditImage 1 Header:Net Results
        EditImage 1 Link Url:/stories/sustainable-fisheries-in-brazil/Pages/albinos-story-net-results.aspx
        EditImage 1 Content:Descended from generations of fishermen in Brazil, Albino Neves has seen local fisheries face unprecedented threats during his lifetime. Now he's part of the solution.
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        EditImage 2 Alt Text:Jaco Galdino
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        EditImage 2 Content:By documenting the dangers of shrimp farming, first-time filmmaker Jaco Galdino played a critical role in one of the Abrolhos region's biggest environmental victories.
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        EditTitle:Supporting Smallholder Fishing in Brazil
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        EditImage Alt Text:Man trawling for crabs. © Cristina Mittermeier

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        EditTitle:Combating Illegal Fishing
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        EditImage Alt Text:Sharks in the Galapagos. © Jeff Litton/Marine Photobank

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        EditImage Alt Text:Coral reef in Viti Levu, Fiji, Oceania. © William Crosse