José Carlos da Silva
FISHER | FUTURIST
To José, fishing is life. A fisher-turned-organizer, José now represents the interests of Brazil’s small-scaling fishing communities as a leader of CONFREM (The National Commission for Strengthening Marine Extractive Reserves (Resex)) in Pará state. While his nickname, Navalha (Portuguese for Razor), makes him sound tough, José wields soft power—the kind that has him successfully organizing his fellow fishers to protect and respect the fish that feed their lives. “I’m motivated by the future,” he says. “If I don’t protect the fish today, my children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren won’t have fish tomorrow.”
With fishers as parents, Jose has always respected and loved the profession. But growing up, he noticed that others didn’t. “We fishers have always been exploited. It is a very individualized and unorganized profession, and our disorganization has left us poorer.” For nearly 40 years, José has organized fishers to set up no-take marine reserves closed to fishing in Viseu, Braganca, and other cities in Pará. In one such reserve, Resex Gurupi-Piriá, José helped create a Fishers’ Association and Intercommunity Council. He has dedicated his life to protecting fish and fishers’ rights to those fish. “One of my goals is to change the way we fishers work so that we can value ourselves more and more.”
Who inspires José?
José takes inspiration from strong leaders who fight for environmental justice and human rights. Renowned international environmentalist Chico Mendes was his first inspiration. “If everyone can be a little bit of Chico, we will have a good future ahead of us.” National leaders like Beto do Maranhão and local leaders and colleagues like Sandra Regina Gonçalves and Zacarias Monteiro inspire José with their tireless devotion to elevating coastal fishing communities’ rights and empowering community-based management within Brazil’s vast, scattered, and beautiful marine protected areas. “We are all doing our part to ensure we have fish for the future.”
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