“Edinilda de Ponto dos Carvalhos, who is in her early fifties, has been a marisqueira, or shellfish fisherwoman, in Suape since she was young. Recently, she says, her work has become much harder.
“There’s this chemical product in the water. It has no smell, but it kills everything,” she says. She believes the pollution comes from the nearby port complex in the Pernambuco state of Brazil, touted as one of the region’s main economic engines.
Another marisqueira, Valeria Maria de Alcántara, says: “The mud makes you itch, because of the oil and because of the debris that they throw in the sea. It burns the skin.”
According to the state’s rural worker training programme, women comprise 5,200 of the 8,700-strong local fishing community. They harvest shellfish standing in the water or meandering through mangrove forests on the shore.
On this bright morning, Dos Carvalhos and more than 20 other fisherwomen have come to talk about the collapse of their livelihoods as a result of pollution and the decimation of the mangroves. “Fisherwomen, who before in a week would get 20 to 30 kilos of shellfish, now take a whole week to get 2 or 3 kilos,” says De Alcántara, sitting on a folding metal chair in a dusty meeting hall.”
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