Good tide for artisanal fishing!

Direct channel with restaurants gives new breath to the traditional fishermen of colonial Cananeia


In the extreme south of the São Paulo coast, along the border with Paraná, Cananeia is a colonial jewel that has stopped in time – founded in 1531, it is considered the first Brazilian city. Made up of several islands that are part of an Atlantic Forest reserve listed by Unesco as a Natural Heritage of Humanity, the municipality is also a preserved paradise.

Being in the middle of an estuary, Cananeia is surrounded by brackish water and 150 km of mangroves. Artisanal fishing has always been the basis of the city's economy and guarantees the survival of more than 1000 fishermen. Living only from fishing, however, has been a challenge for the caiçara, which still depends on middlemen to sell fish and seafood. “They increasingly need other activities to supplement their income. Many give up”, attests Jocemar Tomasino Mendonça, a researcher at the Fisheries Institute (IP-APTA), linked to the Department of Agriculture and Supply of the State of São Paulo.

Little by little, however, reality is beginning to change – entrepreneurs connected to the universe of São Paulo gastronomy, where the fashion is to cook fresh products and certify their origin on the menu, are closing the distance between fishermen and restaurants. At one end of the chain, the caiçaras are learning to add value to fish and earn more. On the other side, chefs up to date with current trends receive fresh fish and seafood with guaranteed origin.

Adopted by a Japanese family, Paulo Hanae is an oriental who just doesn't have slanted eyes. A Cananeia resident and fluent in Japanese, he taught the caiçaras who live in Enseada da Baleia the technique of drying iriko. Very small specimens of the Anchoa Marinii species, measuring no more than 4 cm, are fished with nets as fine as filo – fishermen use boats without motors, so as not to scare away the shoals.

After drying and salting in the sun, a process that lasts a day, the fish are ready for consumption. At stores selling oriental products in São Paulo, the 100-gram package costs around R$ 10. “Japanese and Chinese use iriko as a base for broths, while the Koreans prepare them marinated in soy sauce and ginger”, says Hanae. The growing demand allows entire families of caiçaras to live off iriko. Over 10 days, with the help of relatives, fisherman William Xavier, 29, manages to gather around 150 kilos of dried fish.

Hanae also taught the caiçaras that the mullet roe, transformed into botarga, becomes a fine delicacy. The most beautiful are sold whole – on the website , which distributes the Hanae line, a piece of 100 to 120 grams is sold for R$50. name of shiokará. Chef Tatiana Szeles, from the Marcha e Sai restaurant, in São Paulo, is a regular customer. “I've already served mashed manioc with scallop sautéed in butter and powdered potarga, and egg boiled at low temperature with shiokará. But at home, what I really like is eating shiokará with a spoon”, he confesses.

Son of fishermen, Jefferson Maraschi, from Defumado Caiçara, from Curitiba, is another who is investing in smoking. Fish such as mullet, anchovy, sea bass and white catfish, as well as shrimp and roe, are salted, dehydrated and smoked in their own backyard. The entire process takes up to 30 hours. Maraschi also handles marketing. In addition to receiving orders by email ( ) and dispatching them by mail, he travels through the streets of Cananeia riding a curious bicycle-boat – a kilo of smoked fish costs from R$ 80 to R$ 100, depending on the price. species.

Marine biologist Arthur Artemtchonque's business, on the contrary, is to sell very fresh fish – with his wife, oceanographer Keila Araújo, he raises beijupirás, a species increasingly valued by gastronomy. In a large tank in front of the house, the couple fatten the fish over a year and a half, until they reach about 5 kilos. The food, provided twice a day, is natural, with no trace of feed. “Since they are carnivorous fish, we crush by-products from fish markets. In addition to reducing our costs, we provide an environmental service, avoiding disposal”, says Artemtchonque. Slaughtering (or harvesting, as the caiçaras prefer) also follows animal welfare protocols – fish are removed from the tank and immediately placed in ice cube trays. "The cold dampens the fish instantly and it dies without stress, which is inevitable when the process is by asphyxiation."

The couple's main customers are specialized distributors, who pay R$50 per kilo and sell their fish to Japanese restaurants. Transport takes no more than 5 or 6 hours, the exact time on the road between Cananeia and São Paulo. “It arrives so fresh that customers consider it live fish. Everything goes for sashimi”, the producer is proud.

Freshness is also the trump card of the oysters that Guará Vermelho distributes to São Paulo restaurants – they leave the Cananeia mangroves and arrive in the kitchens on the same day. For seven years at the head of the company, zootechnician Ricardo Magalhães works in partnership with oyster farmers in the mangroves of Cananeia and has been teaching new management techniques that increase productivity.

Heir to the trade he learned from his father, when he was still infancy, João Batista Leal, 53, is one of those partners at Guará Vermelho. In nurseries set up just below the waterline, he fattens the molluscs which he extracts one by one from the roots of the mangrove trees. “I've been doing this since I was 7 years old. When my father fell ill, that was how I supported the family,” says Leal.

With the Red Guará, he learned that he can also cultivate oysters from seeds developed in the laboratory and acquired in large quantities. “This way, we get native oysters with a more uniform shell, which the market values. And oyster farmers gain scale, as they do not depend only on extraction”, explains Magalhães.

Among his most loyal customers is award-winning chef Tsuyoshi Murakami, who opened his new restaurant, Murakami, in São Paulo, in September. “Oysters are firm and more delicate than those in captivity. I serve them fresh with a drop of lemon, but they're also great with a touch of yuzu [Japanese citrus], ponzu sauce, wasabi or miso. In fact, they go well with everything.”

Source: Collaborates Project - FLÁVIA G. PINHO


Paulo Hanae with the irikos: small fish from Cacaneia are a success in oriental stores in the city of São Paulo

(Photo: Caio Ferrari)


Jefferson Maraschi, from Defumado Caiçara: mullet, anchovy, sea bass and white catfish sent by mail and also sold door-to-door with his boat-shaped bicycle

(Photo: Caio Ferrari)


Marine biologist Arthur Artemtchonque and a beijupirá: a species increasingly valued by gastronomy, it is cultivated in a large tank in front of his house until it reaches 5 kilos.

(Photo: Caio Ferrari)

´´As the beijupirás are carnivorous fish, we crush by-products from the fish markets for their food. In addition to reducing our costs, we provide an environmental service, avoiding disposal ´´

Arthur Artemthonque

Biologist and fish producer

Fishing village in Cananeia: city founded in 1531 is located in an Atlantic Forest reserve listed by Unesco as a Natural Heritage of Humanity

(Photo: Caio Ferrari)