— January 26, 2023

The project values the culture of isolated caiçara communities, who live without electricity, and rescues ancestral techniques of fish conservation. This content inaugurates our partnership with The Summer Hunter magazine. READ MORE

Text: Julia Flores
Photos: Victor Collor

In love with fishing since he was a child and a frequent visitor of Bonete Beach, in Ilhabela, publicist Rodolfo Vilar, from São Paulo, was impressed by the knowledge about nature demonstrated by the families who lived there, with the sea and from the sea. But he didn’t see that culture being valued, but rather observed it suffering pressures that threatened its existence. In order to give a voice and strength to that and other isolated caiçara communities, he created the A.MAR project, which trains fishermen and rescues ancestral techniques of fish conservation.

“Many people from the region practice subsistence fishing. With no electric energy or ice, kilos and kilos of fish were lost due to lack of technical knowledge”, Rodolfo told The Summer Hunter. Hence the idea of resorting to smoking, canning, salting, charcuterie and fermentation processes, used by humanity to preserve food since before the invention of the fridge – and which exist to this day as they produce tasty results. There is also improvement work being done on the boat, in the form of treating the fish (accommodated under a blanket with cold sea water, for example), which helps to extend the shelf life of fresh fish even without ice.

Rodolfo recalls that the first impacted family was that of mister Elias, a caiçara from Bonete Beach, in 2017. Since then, the project has already trained other families in Ilhabela, throughout Brazil (in Tatajuba and Itapipoca, Ceará, and in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro) as well as abroad (in the Peruvian Amazon). And the founder of A.MAR delved into research regarding product development, protocols and rescuing fishing conservation techniques that don’t require electric energy.

In addition to increasing the food autonomy of the fishermen, the initiative seeks to elevate their income. If, originally, fresh fish was sold for a pittance due to the risk of spoiling, now there is more time to sell it and obtain a wider profit margin. It may also go through the conservation processes and be sold as a gastronomic delicacy, as many cooks have partnered with the project.

In São Paulo’s Maní, chefs Helena Rizzo e Willem Vandeven included in their menu a “caiçara bottarga”: mullet roe outside the market standard (because they have irregular sizes) mixed with lychee puree and cachaça, packed in pig guts, cured and cold smoked. Other products from the Fish Lab (A.MAR’s research and development laboratory) include mackerel bacon, tuna blood salami with pork belly, fish liver paste…

The idea is to make the most of the fish. Preferably, with various species, valuing the richness of the sea and avoiding overfishing of the most popular fish. “Diversity = Sustainability”, says one of A.MAR’s Instagram posts, in a photo that features corvinas, sardines, Atlantic bumpers, herrings, weakfish, schoolmaster snappers, kingfish, flounders and coroques – how many of these do you know or have you eaten?

By strengthening local fishermen and questioning the process of large-scale fishing, A.MAR has a global impact. “Many biomes and micro-regions are destroyed because the local population is weakened”, says Rodolfo. “When you have a strong, recognized community, it preserves the location by itself.” It is time to take ideas further. At the Fish Lab, inaugurated in 2022 and currently the headquarters of the project, tastings and tests of conservation techniques are already being carried out, in addition to training programs for traditional communities. And now, Rodolfo aims to develop even further this educational branch of A.MAR, creating a Seafood School, with courses and workshops being held there and, in the future, online as well. The sea is vast, and there will be no shortage of subjects.


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