Fish Forever in Brazil: Solution for community-based fisheries management

Published: 24 August 2017
Last edited: 30 September 2020
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As coastal development increases in Brazil, artisanal fishers struggle to protect their resources. By leveraging the government-created Extractive Reserves' (RESEXs) legal structure and working with government, local fishers' organizations, and communities, Rare's Fish Forever program in Brazil has 1) established community-led governance and authority over artisanal fisheries; 2) designated managed-access fishing areas, combined with no-take reserves; and 3) improved participation of fishers and communitiy members in fisheries management and decision-making.


South America
Scale of implementation
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Coastal and marine spatial management
Fisheries and aquaculture
Gender mainstreaming
Health and human wellbeing
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Infrastructure development
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas


Brazil | Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Bahia, Santa Catarina


Fish Forever’s first implementation in Brazil needed to overcome political disturbances that deeply impacted fisheries management at all scales. Fishers increasingly felt insecure, frustrated, and distrustful of government systems like RESEX. Communities are aware of overfishing of fish stocks and of the decline in fish size and quality, but are suspicious of new campaigns, based on their past experience of ineffective projects. Furthermore, leadership and organizational changes are frequent for RESEX management in the Brazilian government, which leads to frequent restarts of the project management process. Finally, the term “no-take zone” has a negative connotation for many artisanal fishers, which is why the term was changed to "Conservation and Reproduction Target-species Area" (ACRES), which also encompasses restoration of fish stocks through a national movement toward sustainable fishing practices, facilitating information sharing and awareness raising of fishers.


  • Fishers
  • Fisher associations
  • Brazilian Enviornmental Agenya (ICMBio)
  • Local governments
  • Women’s groups
  • Reserachers

How do the building blocks interact?

The process goes through several stages, including "Understanding the People and Context", "Participatory Design Process and Implementation", "Community Engagement & Behavior Change", and "Organizational Development and Capacity-building". Fish Forever in other regions, like the Philippines, has also integrated schemes for building financial resileincy at the household level; an aspect which might be inlcuded in the Brazilian design at a later stage. All of the building blocks are underpinned throughout the entire project implementation by the building blocks of "Community Engagement and Behavior Change" and "Organizational Development and Capacity-Building". These two critical building blocks must accompany all the steps in the process in order to make them effective and long-lasting.

See graphic



Fish Forever Brazil engaged 11 communities with 9,800 community members,  committed to community-led sustainable fishery management.

357,096,000 ha of RESEX area across different sites are covered by this project. 14 no-take reserves were established, adding 1,383 ha protected by the local community (Table 1).

Behavior change campaigns promoted sustainable fisheries behavior at the site level (Table 2) and increased knowledge, interpersonal communication, and behavior change toward sustainable fishing practices, also at the national level. The campaigns encourage communities to participate directly in fisheries management and planning, contribute to scientific monitoring, and to create new regulations at the local level (Table 3).

Nine target-species with environmental, social and economic importance are now managed sustainably by communities, following best harvest and management practices. For the first time, 620 fishers (32% of target-fishers) are organized & use logbooks to record catches, allowing them to connect their catch to daily living expenses. Logbooks were implemented to comply with the RESEX fishery data-reporting requirements, and are accepted at many economic instituions as proof of income.

The community-based approach to developing governance, planning, and decision-making capacity provides benefits by enhancing adaptive capacity in the face of climate change.



In Brazil's Marine RESEX of Baia do Iguape in the state of Bahia, 

women from the community work in the mangroves, farming and harvesting shellfish, incl. oysters. The women, most of whom are heads of single-parent households, go into the mangroves every day for this backbreaking work.

Oysters are a ecologically important species. They decrease pressure on the natural environment, and are an indicator species for the effectiveness of environmental protection initiatives. They are also of economic importantance because, as a fast-growing species, they provide more market potential for harvesters. However, unsustainable practices threaten the oysters' natural habitat, and the livelihoods of the people who harvest them. 

In March 2016, Rare launched a pride campaign, led by Daniel Andrade. He is a leader in the community, as his grandparents were fishermen and used the RESEX area in the past for fishing. Daniel grew up going to the mangrove with his family, but continued in University and received a business degree. He now invests his knowledge and education as an adult to build community support for sustainably managing oysters. His pride campaign's launch event featured 30 women, who harvest oysters and other shellfish wearing campaign t-shirts. During the ceremony, one of the local leaders gave an emotional testimony about how, in the past, these women were ashamed of who they were—poor, always dirty from the mangrove mud. This project has helped raise their self-esteem and instill a sense of pride in these women for their work and identity. Now they wear the mud as a badge of honor. 

The campaign promoted sustainable cultivation practices and worked to install oyster family farms to decrease fishing pressure on oyster populations in the mangroves. Daniel was also able to raise funds from the state government for equipment and a new headquarter building. He and the women leaders met with neighbouring communities to find out how to connect to supply chains in order to bring oysters to the market. 

From a social standpoint, the campaign has had an impact by empowering women and building community pride. By improving work skills and the conditions for oyster cultivating and building access to markets, the campaign will boost the livelihoods of these women and their families.

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Jessica Blakely Rare

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