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Setting a strong legal precedent for the protection of coastal fisheries

Environment Programme / Partner story

Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash

More than 90 per cent of the fish industries in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, have shut down in the past 30 years because of the direct adverse impacts of trawling[1]. Bottom trawling involves dragging large weighted nets across the ocean floor, displacing and harming marine species along the way.

Oceana, an international organisation focused on protecting and restoring oceans, conducted research for Brazil’s southern State region of Rio Grande do Sul, which showed that bottom trawling fisheries resulted in discards of up to 70 per cent of the total catch. This means that 70 per cent of fishermen’s catch gets thrown away. This wasteful practice has reduced the abundance of fishing stocks in southern Brazil, affecting the livelihoods of thousands of local fishermen in the region.

In September 2018 the state government of Rio Grande do Sul, along with Amapá, a northern state bordering Surinam and French Guinea, banned bottom trawling. This significant decision, with thanks due in part to the research and campaigning efforts of Oceana, will ensure the protection of 30 nautical miles (49,280 km) and 12,000 km2 of Brazilian coastline.

These conservation gains were threatened recently when the trawling industry lobbied the National Secretariat of Fisheries to challenge the constitutionality of those bans. On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court published its unanimous decision – that state laws banning bottom trawling are fully constitutional. This resounding victory sets a strong legal precedent for the protection of coastal fisheries from destructive bottom trawling. It will benefit both habitat and thousands of small-scale fishers whose livelihoods are dependent on the health of those ecosystems.   

Oak supports Oceana’s endeavours to advocate for more sustainable fishing practices. Its work falls under the Marine sub-programme of our Environment Programme, which supports organisations that contribute to the integrity of marine ecosystems and enhance the wellbeing of coastal and indigenous communities. Go to our website to find out more.