Artisanal Fisher Knowledge and Attitudes Concerning Compressor Fishing in a North-Eastern Brazilian Marine Protected Area


IUU (illegal, unreported, and unregulated) fishing causes severe detrimental social, economic, and environmental impacts worldwide. Although this practice is prohibited in Marine Protected Areas (MPA), practices such as fishing with compressor devices have been reported at the Marine Extractive Reserve of Corumbau (MERC), Brazil. In this case study we use data on MERC fisher knowledge and attitudes concerning compressor fishing gathered through semi-structured interviews to discuss MPA strengths and weaknesses in preventing IUU fishing. Interviewees strongly oppose IUU fishing, complaining it is one of the main reasons for declines in local fishing yield. Respondents indicate that non-local compressor vessels were frequently observed prior to the establishment of MERC, and while such sightings are now less frequent, these vessels continue to appear. At the same time, respondents also indicate that marine environmental enforcement actions are rare. We discuss the roles, potentials, and limitations of MPAs in preventing illegal fishing and protecting fishers from competition with industrial fishing. We recommend the IUU be vigorously combated in Brazilian MPAs.

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We thank all fishers at the Corumbau Marine Extractive Reserve, both for sharing their information and for indicating possible participants. Sergio C. Moreira kindly prepared the map. Special thanks are due to Ana Lúcia Sena Braz (Jandaya Pataxó), for all the logistical supports in the data collection phase.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Márcio L. V. Barbosa-Filho.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - Finance Code 001. S. Siciliano is supported by CNPq (Produtividade em Pesquisa: 306076/2019–5) and INOVA Fiocruz.

Informed Consent

The present study was approved by the University of Pernambuco Research Ethics Committee involving human beings (Plataforma Brasil), under code CAAE 65458016.0.0000.5207. The fishers were briefed about the study protocol and informed consent was obtained from them.

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Appendix A – Survey used for the field interviews, highlighting the questions that generated information on compressor fishing, in bold.


Pernambuco Rural Federal University.

Graduate Program in Ethnobiology and Nature Conservation.

Responsible Researcher: Márcio Luiz Vargas Barbosa Filho.

1 – General Fisher Information and Socioeconomic Profile

Date City Location.

Name Age Fishing Time.

Community/Association Schooling.

Income from fishing General income.

2 - Fishing Characterization

Name of the Vessel Do you own the vessel? Type Length.

Fishing Art Number of Arts Fishing Area.

Fishing frequency? Days at sea? Fishers per fishing trip?

Fished fish.

Q1 - Has fishing income decreased over the years? Why?

3 - Attitudes Concerning the MERC and its Fisheries Management Policy

What is the MERC?

Q2 - Why did you decide to create a MPA in the area?

Before the MERC, did you notice fishers from outside working here in the area? What did you think of that?

Q3 - Before the MERC implementation, what equipment did external boats fish with?

Q4– What do you think about the MERC today? Why?

If you could change anything at the MERC, would you? What? Why?

Do you think that something has changed in your life due to MERC?

For better or for worse? How? Why?

Q5 - Do you think the MERC has changed anything concerning fish protection?

What? Why?

Do you think something should be done to improve fishing at the MERC?

Q6 - Does anything currently happen in the local fishing scenario that should not happen? What?

Is there anything that does not happen today in fishing that should happen?

Do you think that the current fishing is very harmful to fish?

What? Why?

Q7 - Are you satisfied with the inspection that takes place today at the MERC? Why?

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Barbosa-Filho, M.L.V., de Souza, G.B.G., de Faria Lopes, S. et al. Artisanal Fisher Knowledge and Attitudes Concerning Compressor Fishing in a North-Eastern Brazilian Marine Protected Area. Hum Ecol 48, 357–366 (2020).

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  • IUU fishing
  • Compressor diving
  • Artisanal fishing
  • The marine extractive Reserve of Corumbau (MERC)
  • Abrolhos
  • Northeast Brazil