Country: Brazil (South Brazil Bight)


Brazil is the largest South American country (8.5 million km2 of land size) with a coastal length of 8400 km, and 48% of its total population (196 million) living along the coast. The country is 19th in terms of global fish production with consumption increasing at 11 kg fish per capita - reaching 30 kg in the Amazon, and requiring 34% of its seafood products to be imported (MPA, 2014). Fisheries provide jobs for approximately 3.5 million people, and in terms of marine-dependent coastal communities, it is the main traditional activity and source of livelihood.

A particular focus is on the South Brazil Bight (SBB), contrasting to some selected sites across the diverse Brazilian coast with distinct ecosystem characteristics (e.g. coral reefs, mangroves) and social features. The SBB is a crescent-shaped marine ecosystem located between 23ºS 41'W and 28º S 48'W, in the Santos Basin at the northern end of the South Brazil Large Marine Ecosystem. It is considered a discrete biogeographic unit and is , adjacent to the most industrialized and urbanized coastal zone of the country. Consequently, there are several traditional fishing communities and industries that seem severely impacted by global changes such as pollution, tourism expansion, and overfishing.

Oceanographical context

The South Brazil Bight is characterized by isobaths that run almost parallel to the coastline with two seasonal features that boost primary productivity in the ecosystem: the South Atlantic Central Water (SACW) intrusion and Cabo Frio upwellings, as well as the occurrence of meso-scale eddies from the Brazil Current (to the east).

In the inner shelf, major oceanographic interactions occur among warm, saline, oligotrophic surface water (the so-called Tropical Water), low saline, productive coastal water highly influenced by river runoff and the seasonal wind-driven penetration of cold, nutrient-rich slope water (SACW) towards the coast. During the winter, the cold, low-salinity water from the La Plata River plume often influences the southern portion of the bight, through waters originating from the Malvinas current/Subtropical Convergence.

Economic and social context

The coastal areas of the South Brazil Bight sustain a diversity of economic activities being subject to increasing pressures such as urban development, industrial expansion, exploitation of natural resources, infrastructure, and tourism. Artisanal and industrial commercial fishing, tourism, shipping, and oil & gas exploration seem to be the most important economic activities while aquaculture is increasing slightly. Brazil has the second largest oil reserves in South America, where both the South Brazil Bight (Santos Basin) and the Campos basin hold the largest Brazilian gas fields.

Fishing communities are diverse and abundant, provide seafood and livelihoods to the country and have been impacted by recent developments as well as climate issues. Seafood consumption is increasing in the country (average 11 kg fish per capita), which is associated with the related social-economic progression and changing habits of the population.

Important fisheries

The South Brazil Bight contributes about half of Brazil's commercial fisheries yields supporting important pelagic and demersal fisheries. The Brazilian sardine fisheries (Sardinella brasiliensis) are the most productive of Brazil which led to the development of an important purse-seine fishery, especially since 1950. Bottom trawling across the relatively smooth, sandy-mud bottom target mostly the shrimps Xiphopenaeus kroyeri (seabob shrimp) and Farfantepenaeus brasiliensis and F. paulensis (pink-shrimp), but also the white-mouth croaker Micropogonias furnieri, king weakfish Macrodon ancylodon, weakfish Cynoscion spp, and triggerfish Balistes capriscus. The pole-and-line based fishery for skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) increased in the 1980s as a consequence of the regional expansion of industrial fisheries offshore.

Other fleets that operate in this region include longliners for tuna in oceanic zones and gillnetters in the shelf area. Overall, most fishing vessels operates in the shelf region, and those fisheries are mostly opportunistic multispecies fisheries. Loliginid squid (Doryteuthis spp), cutlass fish Trichiurus lepturus, the hake Merluccius hubbsi and rays are other important resources in coastal areas, as well as the mullets Mugil liza in estuarine zones, and the monkfish (Lophius gastrophysus) in deeper waters around 500m.

Biodiversity of the region

Brazil has the wealthiest biodiversity of the planet, but much of the marine biodiversity remains unknown. However, more than 13,000 marine species have been identified (about 10000 animals and 3000 plants). Mollusks and macro algae are amongst the most diverse (number of species) of South America. The Brazilian richness surpasses 3500 species of crustaceans and 2000 of mollusks.

All marine species inhabits a diverse set of habitats, from sandy and rocky coasts to mangroves, islands, seamounts and coral reefs. Generally, the demersal fauna is more abundant in depths less than 50m than at greater depths further offshore, and decapod crustaceans are important prey items for benthic fish species. So far, scientists have identified a total of 1520 fish species, 160 of which are cartilaginous (sharks and rays). Approximately 10.5% of reef fish species are endemic to Brazil.

In the SBB, penaeid shrimps, sardines, and sciaenid fish are quite dominant. Loliginid squid (Doryteuthis plei) are thought to play a key ecological role in the ecosystem as predators and prey, linking the pelagic and benthic sub-systems.

KEY Climate Concerns

• Sea surface temperature has increased by 1.12°C since 1957.
• Some shifts in the distributional range of commercially important species have observed, as well as ENSO events, flooding intensification, and heat waves. Coastal erosion resulting from climate driven shifts in coastal winds and wave patterns have affected people' livelihoods (e.g. home. infrastructure, resettlement, navigational routes and port access).
• Climate change models estimate a moderate decline in the future potential of capture fisheries in Brazil.
• In the South Brazil Bight, the rise in sea level, although small, may have potential consequences for accelerated coastal erosion, increased flooding, rising groundwater and increasing salinity in rivers, estuaries and aquifers.
• The changes associated with climate will act as additional sources of impact affecting the livelihoods of marine-dependent coastal communities.

 Brazil - Team Profile

MaryGasalla Brazil 

Maria A. Gasalla

Fisheries Ecosystems Laboratory at University of São Paulo’s Oceanographic Institute (IOUSP)

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Mary has a PhD in Oceanography, MSc in Biological Oceanography, and a BSc in Biology. She became a fisheries scientist after a 10-year position at a public research body in Brazil with scientific opportunities at international institutions (e.g. Canada, Spain, Denmark, Mexico and Argentina) where she studied ecosystem and stock assessment modelling, and also social sciences and economics. She is a faculty member at the University of São Paulo’s Oceanographic Institute (IOUSP) and head of the Fisheries Ecosystems Laboratory where interdisciplinary research and capacity building in contemporary fisheries science have been a focus. She is researcher of the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq) developing and testing innovative approaches to integrate different fisheries issues in the context of complex marine social-ecological systems. While her career and professional experience have expanded, she has focused on a broad range of topics, including the integration of natural and social sciences and both quantitative approaches and governance-related issues. As a team leader, Mary also conducts lecturing, supervising, and advisory activities. Her main professional interests are the sustainable use of marine biodiversity, fishing communities, fisheries economics, and ocean governance, for which she attempt to integrate biophysical models, ecological-economic indicators, and the human dimension of fisheries, including fisher’s knowledge.

EduardoSiegle Brazil 

Eduardo Siegle

Coastal Dynamics Laboratory at University of São Paulo’s Oceanographic Institute (IOUSP)Coastal Dynamics Laboratory at University of São Paulo’s Oceanographic Institute (IOUSP)

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Eduardo has a PhD in Marine Sciences (University of Plymouth), MSc in Geosciences, and a BSc in Oceanography. He , is a Lecturer at the Oceanographic Institute of the University of São Paulo (IOUSP) where since 2005 he has coordinated the Coastal Dynamics lab and research group ( His studies aim to better understand the complex interaction between the forcing conditions and the coastal environments at different space and time scales, providing vital information for the optimal coastal management and use. He is currently the director of graduate studies in Oceanography at the Oceanographic Institute.

RicardoCamargo Brazil 

Ricardo de Camargo

University of São Paulo’s Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics, and Atmospheric Sciences


Ricardo has a Ph.D. in Meteorology, M.Sc. in Physical Oceanography, and a BSc in Physics. He is a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics, and Atmospheric Sciences. He is experienced in numerical modeling of atmospheric and oceanic circulation, as well as meteo-oceanographic data analysis. He has more than 15 years of teaching and researching Synoptic and Applied Meteorology and its relations with Physical Oceanography, emphasizing shelf and coastal regions of Brazil. Some of his recent efforts include: (i) downscaling of atmospheric and oceanic circulation for the Western South Atlantic (including surface gravity waves) in order to study extreme marine events in this area; (ii) evaluation of coupled climate models for the Western South Atlantic for investigating regional climate change and (iii) analysis of in situ data collected in the Brazil-Malvinas Confluence region and assimilation of them into numerical models to investigate regional air-sea interactions.

EdmoCampos Brazil 

Edmo Campos

University of São Paulo’s Oceanographic Institute (IOUSP)

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Edmo has a PhD. In Physical Oceanography (University of Miami), MSc. In Physics, and a BSc. in Physics, and is Professor of Physical Oceanography at IOUSP, a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and Senior Researcher of the Brazilian National Scientific Research Council (CNPq). He has been involved in several research issues related to the South Atlantic Oceanography, with emphasis on international initiatives such as the SAMOC Project (South Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation;, fully funded by FAPESP), Project ATLAS-B, an effort to build and moore a buoy system (similar to the ones used in the TAO, PIRATA and RAMA arrays in the tropical oceans), and IPCC (Co-Author of Chapter 5th Assessment Report).

IvanMartins Brazil 

Ivan M. Martins

Fisheries Ecosystems Laboratory at University of São Paulo’s Oceanographic Institute (IOUSP)

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Ivan is a PhD candidate in Oceanography (University of São Paulo), and has a MSc in Ecology (Santa Catarina University) and BSc in Biology. Ivan is working on social vulnerability of fisheries communities and has previous experience with ethnobiology, local ecological knowledge and marine protected areas.

University of São Paulo

logo usp 


Oceanographic Institute of the University of São Paulo



São Paulo Research Foundation


Project links (description and weblink)

• FAPESP – Belmont Forum:

Scientific articles (citation and weblink – we are still to add some links here)

• Pecl GT, Hobday AJ, Frusher SF, Sauer WHH, Bates AE (2014). Ocean warming hotspots provide early warning laboratories for climate change impacts. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries. 24: 409-413,
• Gasalla, M. A. and Rossi-Wongtschowski, C. L. D. B. 2004 . Contribution of ecosystem analysis to investigating the effects of changes in fishing strategies in the South Brazil Bight. Ecological Modelling, 172: 283-306.

• Abdallah, P. R.; Sumaila, U. R. 2007. A historical account of Brazilian public policy on fisheries subsidies. Marine Policy, 31(4): 444-450.
• Gasalla, M. A. 2007. Ecosystem-Based fisheries modeling in the South Brazil Shelf: a review based on the LME perspective. 2ND Conference on Large Marine Ecosystems, Qingdao, China, September 2007.
• Gasalla, M.A. Velasco, G., Rossi-Wongtswonski, C. L.D., Haimovici, M. & Madureira, L.S. P. 2008. Trophic model of South Brazil Large Marine Ecosystem between 100 and 1000 m depth. Proceedings of the 5th World Fisheries Congress, Yokohama, Japan.
• Gasalla, M. A. 2011 . Do all answers lie within (the community)? Fishing rights and marine conservation. In: Chuenpagdee, R.. (Org.). World Small-Scale Fisheries Contemporary Visions. 1 ed. Delft: Eburon Academic Publishers, p.185-204.
• Gasalla, M. A. and Diegues, A. C. S. 2011. People’s Seas: “Ethno-oceanography” as an Interdisciplinary Means to Approach Marine Ecosystem Change. In: Ommer. R; Perry, I; Cochrane, K.L.; Cury, P. (Eds). World Fisheries. A Social-Ecological Analysis. 1 ed. London: Wiley-Blackwell, p. 210-220.
• Gasalla, M. A.; Rodrigues, A. R.; Duarte, L. F. A. and Sumaila, R. 2010a. A comparative multi-fleet analysis of socio-economic indicators for fishery management in SE Brazil. Progress in Oceanography, 87: 304-319.
• Gasalla, M. A.; Rodrigues, A. R.; Postuma, F. A. 2010b. The trophic role of the squid Loligo plei as a keystone species in the South Brazil Bight ecosystem. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 67: 1413-1424.
• Leite, M. C. F.; Gasalla, M. A. 2013. A Method for assessing Fishers Ecological Knowledge as a Practical Tool for Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management: Seeking consensus in Southeastern Brazil. Fisheries Research, v. 145, p. 43-53.
• Pincinato, R. B. M. and Gasalla, M. A. 2010. Priceless prices and marine food webs: Long-term patterns of change and fishing impacts in the South Brazil Bight as reflected by the seafood market. Progress in Oceanography, 87: 320-330.
• Postuma, F. A. and Gasalla, M. A. 2011. On the relationship between squid and the environment: artisanal jigging for Loligo plei at Sao Sebastiao Island (24 S), Southeastern Brazil. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 87: 1353-1362.
• Rodhouse, P. G. ; Pierce, G. J. ; Nichols, O. C. ; Sauer, W. H. ; Arkhipkin, A. I. ; Laptikhovsky, V. V. ; Lipi NSKI, M. R. ; Ramos, J. E. ; Gras, M. ; Kidokoro, H. ; Sadayasu, K. ; Pereira, J. ; Lefkaditou, E. ; Pita, C. ;Gasalla, M. A.; Haimovici, M. ; Sakai, M. ; Downey, N. 2014. Environmental Effects on Cephalopod Population Dynamics: Implications for Management of Fisheries. Advances in Marine Biology, v. 67, p. 99-233.
• Valentini, H.; Pezzuto, P. R. 2006. Análise das principais pescarias comerciais da região Sudeste-Sul do Brasil com base na produção controlada do período 1986-2004. Relatórios Técnicos Série REVIZEE, São Paulo: Instituto Oceanográfico – Universidade de São Paulo.
• Hobday, A. J.; Young, J. W.; Abe, O.; Costa, D. P.; Cowen, Robert K.; Evans, K.; Gasalla, M. A.; Kloser, R.; Maury, O.; Weng, K. C. 2013. Climate impacts and oceanic top predators: moving from impacts to adaptation in oceanic systems. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, v. 23, p. 537-546, 2013.