Fishermen suffer with pandemic aftermath in Natal

fishermen in northeast brazil
Photo: Jefferson Peixoto/Secom

At the margins of the Potengi river, the main river that cuts through the northeastern city of Natal, the local docks have been at full capacity for extended periods of time, as many local fishing activities have been halted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Communities of fishermen living on the banks of the river have been left to their own devices, with fish demands plummeting and little access to healthcare and personal protective equipment.

When interviewed by newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, fisherman José Celestino Pereira and five members of his family did not own protective face masks and explained that access to hand sanitizer in the community was rare. The improvised brick houses on the banks of the Potengi river are built so close together that social distancing and natural ventilation between neighbors is minimal.

To make matters worse — Natal, one of the largest cities in the Northeast with a metropolitan area of 1.7 million inhabitants — has been on the brink of a generalized public health collapse with municipal hospital beds at 100 percent capacity for nearly a month, making access to proper healthcare upon contracting the coronavirus another challenge.

Another financial blow

Financially, the local fishing industry had already been in decline after oil spills off the Brazilian coast had drastic effects on fish sales, as previously reported by The Brazilian Report.

Now, with demand continuing to plummet amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the already low income of many families relying on fishing is in further jeopardy.

Furthermore, many families are still waiting for the first installment of the BRL 600 (USD 120) emergency salary, designed to aid informal workers, such as fishermen, to weather the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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