CABO DE SANTO AGOSTINHO, Brazil – Hundreds of beaches in the northeast of Brazil that were stained by an oil spill in the Atlantic have returned to normal, but the “ghost” of the slick still scares tourists and victimizes fishermen.
Two months after the first occurrences of spots that covered more than 3,000 kilometers of the northeast shores, which represents 40% of the entire Brazilian coast, tourism and fishing, the main source of income for most people, have been heavily hit by the spill.
A number of beaches were affected by the sticky substance and a warning over possible water contamination not only drove bathers away but also affected fishermen.
FISHERMEN WITHOUT WORK OR TOURISTS
Suape Beach, which belongs to the municipality of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, but which is closer and receives its name from the sea port of Suape, in Ipojuca, was always characterized by the coexistence between tourism and fishing.
In Suape, the ecological disaster has left kiosks closed, tables and umbrellas deserted, fishing boats and strollers docked and the pockets of small merchants empty.
“Fishing was very affected because people do not want to buy the fish” and tourism has dropped 50%, Ademar Senna, a fisherman and tourist boatman, told EFE.
The 39-year-old said that “no help has come for fishermen” and that many people are freezing fish without selling anything.
“Not a penny came for fishermen. Nor are people eating shellfish,” he added.
A fishing vessel, which leaves in the mornings for the high seas and returns the next day at the same time, collects about 300 kilos of fish weekly, but sales do not reach ten kilos, the fishermen of Suape reported.
Fishermen like Senna say that the area that was most affected by the oil was the mangroves and estuaries, “which are being cleaned,” but that the fish on the high seas moved away from the layers of oil that advanced towards the beaches.
“Neither fish nor crabs feed on oil,” he said.
Marcos Conrado, owner of a fishing vessel and a fish market, told EFE that in Suape and its surroundings between 600 and 700 people depend on the sale of fish and shellfish.
“Some receive the lobster subsidy, but we still don’t,” the 51-year-old merchant added.
Federal Police reported on Friday that they were investigating a Greek flag vessel, which was headed to Singapore loaded with Venezuelan oil, as the main suspect in the spill.
According to the most recent report by the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, the spill has reached 296 beaches in 101 municipalities in the nine northeastern states.
In total, 109 animals have been found with traces of oil, of which 28 were rescued alive and 81 died, mostly sea turtles.
Regional governments have reported the collection and disposal of 4,600 tons of oil and waste.