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“In COVID’s Shadow, Illegal Fishing Flourishes”

“With COVID-19 lockdowns, Brazil’s capacity to monitor for illegal fishing has plummeted. Many on the ground say people have been quick to take advantage of the situation.”

“In Brazil, environmental monitoring and protection for endangered species have been weakening ever since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic has all but dealt those efforts the killing blow. Since the end of March, when most of the federal government’s environmental agency staff started working from home, artisanal fishermen from different parts of the country have been reporting increasing illegal activity. Industrial fishing vessels, they say, are scouring protected areas of the coast.

“Large boats that come from other regions have been operating here,” says Alan Machado, president of a fishermen’s association in Caravelas, Brazil.

Just off the coast of Caravelas is the Abrolhos Marine National Park, one of the most biodiverse zones in the South Atlantic. “Some of our colleagues have seen commercial boats catching fish in the park,” says Machado. “They know that there are no environmental inspectors working here now.””

Eduardo Campos Lima reports for Hakai magazine July 8, 2020.