Praia dos coqueiros, Bahia state, Brazil. Photo from Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain.

Recreational fisheries in northeastern Brazil increase threats to snapper populations

Praia dos coqueiros, Bahia state, Brazil. Photo from Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain.

Praia dos coqueiros, Bahia state, Brazil. Photo from Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain.

Populations of silk snapper, mutton snapper, lane snapper, yellowtail snapper, and dog snapper are seeing increased pressure due to the growing activity of recreational fisheries operating offshore northeastern Brazil.

A new study published in the Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research states that even though recreational catches in the area are small when compared to commercial catches, they have grown to a point where their impact should not be ignored.

“The silk snapper fishery considered ‘fully exploited’ in northeastern Brazil, while the rest of the species are overexploited. These species comprised over 7 per cent of the total identified catch of recreational fishers in the region between 2008-2015,” said Katia Freire, lead author of the study, which was done in collaboration with the Sea Around Us initiative and the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries of the University of British Columbia.

With 12-hour fishing trips that take place during the austral summer, particularly in January, recreational fishing operators, anglers and those who participate in fishing competitions extracted a peak of 99 tonnes of fish in 2011. Following that peak, the popularization of the practice of ‘catch and release’ prompted a drop in the amounts of fish kept by fishers to a point where nowadays catches average 55 tonnes per year.

“Besides the ecological impact of the fisheries, the economic impacts of these activities should not be dismissed as recreational fishers in northeastern Brazil have spent some $1.5 million per year in recent years,” Freire said.

Overall, recreational catches both onshore and offshore in the states of Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Fernando de Noronha Island, Maranhao, Piaui, Ceara, Alagoas, and Sergipe, have been estimated at 1,150 tonnes per year.

“No matter how small quantities are when compared to what industrial fisheries get, it is crucial to know how much each sector is extracting because, otherwise, important trends could be overlooked. In this case, we know there is a growing number of people fishing for pleasure offshore northeastern Brazil and identifying this trend in its early stages is key so that proper management can be implemented,” said co-author Daniel Pauly, the Sea Around Us Principal Investigator.

In the South American country, there are only three management measures in place when it comes to recreational fishers: They need to have a fishing license; they have a bag limit, and they cannot sell their catch. “Better management can help prevent future detrimental effects. However, as we highlight in the paper, the former depends on improving data collection systems for recreational fisheries and all fisheries for that matter,” Pauly said.

The paper “The offshore recreational fisheries of northeastern Brazil” was published in the Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research. DOI: 10.3856/vol46-issue4-fulltext-14