top of page
Foto 148 - Mara e Nelson pescando no mangue.jpg
Living from the Mangrove:


The expression “embarracar” is very common among fishermen and shellfish gatherers and refers to a camp set up in some area of the mangrove, with a tent built out of  wood collected on site and a canvas tarp. There, fishermen and fisherwomen stay for several days to fish.


As Karoline said, she learned to fish with her grandmother, Dona Maria, at the age of 8, when she started going with her to embarracar. In general, entire families with children aged 7 or 8 go to the camp. There they fish everything the mangrove offers: aratus, siri, caranguejo, oyster, sururu, moapê, shrimp, pufferfish and various other fish. As Marcela told me: “If you can’t catch one thing, you catch another.” Using the various techniques and tools, fishers and shellfish gatherers can stay out for days or months, going to the city only to sell their fish and buy ice and return to camp. There, they cook and process their fish, reading them for sale.


To embarracar, you need a canoe with paddles, which will take the fishers to the camping point and help them move through the mangrove during the days of the trip. In addition, you take a large tarp to build the camp; some kitchen utensils, knives and pans for cooking; a machete that has different uses such as cutting firewood, opening coconuts and paths; all kinds of different fishing tools: siripoia, net, reed, line, pit, manzuá, cast nets, as well as buckets and bags for storing fish; and ice to preserve them. In addition to all this, palm oil, salt and cassava flour are used as the basis of the diet, which will be complemented by fruits and fish collected there. This type of fishing represents all the traditional knowledge of these fishing communities. When fishing with the most varied techniques and tools and in the processing of the most diverse species, the traditional wisdom of artisanal fishing prevails. Using local resources to make shelter, fire made with termite houses to scare away mosquitoes, the way of moving in the mud, in mangrove branches and in a canoe through river courses, are examples of the wisdom needed to survive in the mangrove.

Coifo, siripoia and manzuá

Embarracar is a special practice, always mentioned as something very enjoyable. Contact with nature represents peace and tranquility, as many fisherwomen told me. Furthermore, experiencing time in a more organic way, the adventure of fishing, the interaction between fishers, family and friends, are highlighted as moments of happiness. Expressions such as: “As soon as we can, we will embarracar”; “I’m dying to embarracar”; “I miss embarracar”, are frequent in interviews with fisherwomen, and reflect the joy the women take in this practice. Only small children and their mothers cannot embarracar, so during early childhood it is common for mothers to stay away from the mangrove for a while. In this case, they are responsible for receiving the fish and preparing them for sale. This  is the case of Karoline and Marcela, who are fisherwomen associated with the Canavieiras Crab Catchers and Collectors Association. Both women have young children and are temporarily away from the mangrove, but expressed their longing and desire to return as soon as their children are older.

Foto 147 - Mangue.jpg


Embarracar is mainly practiced by those who live in more urbanized places such as the city of Canavieiras or the towns  located on the banks of BA-001. The more remote communities, such as Campinhos and Barra Velha, do not embarracam, as they are already located in the middle of the mangrove, and thus can practice this type of immersive fishing while returning to their homes at the end of the day. When I was in Barra Velha with Mara and her family, after a day of fishing, we returned with around 20 aratus, 10 siri 4 caranguejos, 2 buckets of oysters, some sururus, and some fish. First Mara “launched the canoe” for her husband Nelson, which means she paddled the canoe so that he could cast the net, then they steered  it together to the edge of the mangrove. He climbed onto the gaiteiras (branches of the mangrove tree) and fished for aratus, then returned to the flooded area and removed oysters and sururus. Meanwhile, Nelson disappeared into the mangrove and some time later returned with a bag with crabs, siris and oysters.

Foto 148 - Mara e Nelson pescando no mangue.jpg

Mara and Nelson fishing in the mangroves

In general, siris, caranguejos, aratus, fish and shrimp are mostly intended for commercialization, while oysters, sururus and other molluscs in the communities of Barra Velha e Campinhos are mostly intended for family consumption. Just like crustaceans, molluscs are boiled, removed from their shells, bagged, frozen and used to feed families. The oyster moqueca was offered to me both in Campinhos and Barra Velha is typical local dish. Very tasty, it is made from different ingredients, all collected right there: palm oil, coconut milk and oyster.

Oyster harvesting

The community of the Canavieiras RESEX has survived for a long time in a relationship of balance and subsistence with the mangrove. Extracting their food and income from the mangrove, fishermen and shellfish gatherers reproduce the traditional knowledge passed on by their ancestors as a form of survival. Living off the mangrove requires wisdom and strength. As was told many times, life in the mangrove is not easy. It is a hard, tiring life that inflicts harm on the body. However, coexistence with nature, the freedom and autonomy that the mangrove allows, and the respect for the wisdom offered by their ancesters, makes the mangrove a special place for these people. As Evanir, a fisherman, states:


“It's a decent job. It's what my mother could offer us, and I accepted it. I knew how to value it.”

Climate memory and changes in the landscape

To live off the mangrove, you need to know the moons and tides; the habits and rhythms of each species, their behaviors, food, and homes. It is necessary to know and master different techniques and strategies. Different skills and sensitivities are needed to use the wind, recognize the weather, and wait for the right moment. To live off the mangrove it is necessary to adapt, go with the tide, accept what the mangrove gives and be grateful. Understanding that one day it works and the next it doesn't, and still, keep going. Living with the different fisherwomen and shellfish gatherers that I met at Canavieiras’ RESEX, I learned many fishing techniques, tools, traps and species. But I also learned a lot about resilience, generosity and strength.

Foto 151 - Tirando ostra.jpg

Oyster shucking

The care that each one of them offered me– preparing food, offering me a loan of clothes or boots, giving me explanations, guaranteeing me company every day and in all the places I wanted to go, reflected their generosity.

Foto 150 - Criança brincando com tarrafa.jpg

Child playing with a line.

The daily struggle, not only for themselves, but for their entire community, seeking improvements, facing hunger, corruption, domestic violence, prejudice, reveal the strength of these women. Their smiles, despite tired and sick bodies, and the massive presence of more than seventy women at meetings they organized for me to meet them, inspire the determination and courage to live despite all adversities.

Foto 152 - Luana e Aninha - pescadoras do mangue.jpg

Luana and Aninha - Mangrove fisherwomen

Among the fishermen and shellfish gatherers of Canavieiras, the fight is collective, together, they defend their rights, and secure improvements that benefit everyone. Women continue to care for their children, their husbands, and anyone else in need, and yet, they also fight to value and strengthen themselves.

Life in the mangrove - Dona Lindnalva

Women's Network against Structural Machismo
Communities in the Canavieiras Extractive Reserve
Crab, Siri and Aratu
Processing and Selling
Living from the Mangrove: Embarracar
bottom of page