It is estimated that between 5000 and 18,000 registered/unregistered artisanal fishermen operate in the bay. Fishermen have borne the economic cost of its environmental degradation more than any other group.
But while the fish are vanishing, the quantity of fishermen continues to grow thanks to a faltering economy still recovering from a crippling recession. For Rio’s poor living near the bay, relying on its bounty has long been a way to weather the economic storm. Now it has become unsustainable.
“I’ve been fishing since I was sixteen, I learned from my uncle,” says Santelmo, 58, “this is all I’ve known. We used to have no problem finding fish, now we have to risk fishing in restricted military areas, where they shoot us with rubber bullets. My brother lost his leg to a soldier’s lead. We can’t fish during certain times of the year but the government doesn’t pay us our social security on time, so what are we supposed to do? Starve?”
It’s a story about working class struggles in the global south, intersecting with environmental issues, corporate greed and government accountability. Few stories have been done on the Guanabara outside of the Rio2016 games and even fewer from the perspective of the people who actually live there.
About Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson is a Canadian freelance photojournalist and videographer. Born in Mississauga, Ontario, he joined the Canadian Army Reserve Infantry at sixteen. After studying political science in university he travelled extensively throughout Southeast Asia, including Thailand where he documented the 2014 political crisis unfolding on the streets of Bangkok. A near death experience on the Mekong in Laos inspired him to pursue a career in visual storytelling, graduating from the Photojournalism program at Loyalist College in 2016. Since then he based himself in Brazil, studying Portuguese and pursuing personal projects and working as a stringer. Andrew’s most recent work sees him splitting his time between exploring political polarization, social inequality, and pollution in Rio de Janeiro and the changing face of the suburbs where he grew up. Andrew has contributed work to the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and select galleries in Canada. [Official Website]