According to Rabobank (2016), Brazil is a sleeping aquaculture and seafood giant. With more than 200 million people, Brazil is the largest country in both South and Central America and the world’s fifth-largest country, by both area and population. With the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of 7,491 kilometers. It borders all other South American countries (e.g. Peru and Colombia) apart from Ecuador and Chile and covers 47.3% of the continent’s land area. Its Amazon River basin spans numerous protected habitats, a variety of ecological systems, and extensive natural resources, including a vast tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife. This unique environmental heritage makes Brazil one of 17 mega diverse countries. While its marine fish resources are heavily exploited, aquaculture, in marine and freshwater environments, still has a huge potential and production is growing steadily. Currently, Brazil is already the second largest aquaculture producer in the Latin American and Caribbean region. While Brazil still depends on seafood imports to meet domestic demand, domestic aquaculture production may soon out compete imported seafood.

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Brazil's seafood sector

The seafood sector in Brazil is important in terms of employment and food security. It is estimated that about 3.5 million people are directly or indirectly involved in fisheries and aquaculture. Fisheries production is divided between inland (30%) and marine (70%). The inland fisheries consist predominantly of artisanal fisheries, while the marine fisheries is divided by industrial and artisanal fisheries. More than 60 percent of the total marine landings originate from a fleet of about 60,000 artisanal boats which are concentrated in the north and north-eastern coastal states. The other 40% is caught by industrial vessels, which mainly operate in southern Brazil. Due to over-exploitation of marine fisheries resources, aquaculture offers the largest potential to increase fish supplies. The aquaculture sector in Brazil has enjoyed very steady long-term growth. Freshwater aquaculture (tilapia, carps and some indigenous species) accounted for 87 percent (545,300 tonnes) of total aquaculture production in 2011. In coastal areas and in the Amazon basin fish consumption is much higher than in inland regions. Estimates suggest that annual per caput fish consumption in the Amazon basin may exceed 30 kg while in other areas of the country, and in larger cities annual per caput consumption was estimated at about 12kg in 2014.

Fisheries and aquaculture production

Source: FAO (2017)

Fisheries production is stable around 600,000 tonnes for last couple of years, and is still out competing aquaculture production. Aquaculture production showed steady signs of increase, from less than 200,000 tonnes in 2000 to almost 600,000 tonnes in 2015. As many of the marine stocks are heavily over fished, mainly by the industrial fleet, it can be

expected that marine catches therefore will reduce gradually in the coming years unless severe measures are taken.

Aquaculture production increase is mainly caused by tilapia, the amazon species such as Cachama (locally referred to as Tambaqui) and to a lesser extent of carps, marine crustaceans and molluscs. Rabobank predicts tilapia production to increase to 500,000 tonnes in 2020, while it expects that Cachama and related amazon species might increase to 330,000 tonnes in 2020. Tilapia is an interesting species because of its low cost, Cachama is an interesting species because it is a native species with a specific texture and taste. Cachama is expected to be regarded by the local market as a good alternative of marine and imported species.

Marine aquaculture growth is less rapid than in the freshwater area. Although marine aquaculture of fish, shrimp and molluscs is promoted, the investments are often too high and sufficient infrastructure is lacking. Brazil’s shrimp farming industry, situated in the North East, collapsed in 2003 due to disease outbreaks and heavy floods. It took the shrimp industry until 2015 to get back to the same production volume of 90,000 tonnes as before 2003. It is expected that shrimp production will continue to grow gradually.

Production per species in 2015 (tonnes)

Source: FAO (2017)

Cultured freshwater fish has the largest share of the nation's seafood production and consist mostly out of tilapia and Amazon species such as Cachama. Cultivation of the freshwater species is spread throughout the country, although due to legislation, tilapia cannot be produced in the

Amazon's protected areas. Nevertheless, it remains likely that the production of tilapia and Amazon species will continue to increase, as more, larger, companies are getting involved in fish production. Shrimp production (cultured marine crustaceans) is expected to increase in the coming years, but for many years the industry has been struggling with diseases, lack of quality inputs and other barriers that limit actual growth.

Wild marine fish production contributes about one-third to the total seafood production. Brazil's marine fishery catch both demersal and pelagic fish but catches for both are under pressure. Most of the catch is composed of various coastal fish species, small pelagics like anchovies, herrings and sardines, and tunas, bonitos and bill fishes.

Seafood export markets

Source: Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre,

Despite that Brazil not yet enjoys a free trade agreement with neither the United States or the European Union, they are both among the most important markets when it comes to the country’s seafood export.

Although the export of the Brazilian rock lobster to the US has decreased both in value and volume with almost 50%

since 2012, the export of Brazilian seafood to the US market shows steady increase the last 10 years. It is especially the export of frozen fish, mainly snapper, which has almost been doubled since 2006. In addition, the export of fresh fish to the US market has increased significantly since 2012.

Exports to the European Union have been quite stable for the last 5 years, and the EU accounts for 23% (US$ 60 mln) of Brazil’s total export value in 2016. The European market mainly imports fish extracts (US$ 23 mln) from Brazil, together with frozen fish (US$ 17 mln), rock lobster (US$ 9,7 mln) and shrimp (US$ 3,6 mln). Brazil, together with other Mercado Comum do Sul (Mercosur) country members, is currently in negotiations with the European Union about a free trade agreement. Such a FTA would be valuable for Brazil, as it can open up for more export of seafood to the EU market.

Hong Kong mainly imports fish extracts, in addition to cured and live fish from Brazil. Shrimps make up for most of the import to the Japanese market. Other export markets of importance for Brazil's export of seafood are Cuba, Argentina, Canada, Chile and Vietnam.

Export products in 2016 (000 US$)

Source: Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre,

Export of frozen fish, which mainly consist of snapper, croaker, catfish and yellowfin tuna, counted for nearly 70% of Brazil’s seafood export in 2016. The main export market was the US (US$ 30 mln), followed by Spain (US$ 8 mln), Korea (US$ 5.6 mln) and China (US$ 5.2 mln).

In 2016, rock lobster made up for almost 90% (US$ 70

mln) of the export of crustaceans. Despite a significant decrease from 2015 (US$ 50 mln), the United States was still the biggest importer of Brazilian rock lobster in 2016 counting for US$ 26 mln. Other main export markets were Vietnam (US$ 8.2 mln) and France (US$ 5.2 mln). Export of shrimp accounted for US$ 7 mln where nearly half of the total export of shrimp went to the Japanese market (US$ 3.2 mln), followed by France (US$ 2.5 mln).

Export of fresh fish consists mainly of tuna, swordfish and cod-like fish. In 2016, 96% was exported to the US (US$ 35.6 mln), followed by the UK (US$ 6.3 mln) and other EU-countries. Fish extracts for consumption were mainly exported to EU-market (US$ 23.7 mln), while cured fish, mainly fish head and tails, were exported to Hong Kong(US$ 16.8 mln) and China(US$ 2.2 mln).


Last updated: 01/10/2018

  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

    Species Number of Farms Total Volume (MT)
    Tilapia 7 20,800
  • Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)

    Species Number of Farms Total Volume (MT)
    Tilapia 2 NA

Sector support programs

  • Fish Forever

    Fish Forever is a unique improvement program for productive, sustainable and profitable fisheries management in Brazil. The organization Rare is implementing this solution using a TURF+Reserves methodology. A TURF, Territorial User Rights in Fisheries, provides local fishers exclusive access to a fishing area. The "Reserves" component focuses on building capacity to set up and manage fish recovery zones.

    Rare, Local communities, SOS Atlantic Forest Foundation, Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, Oceana, government entities at the local, state and national levels and academia.
  • BR Marine Protected Areas Project

    The BR Marine Protected Areas Project supports the conservation of trans-boundary ocean life by contributing to the long-term protection of Brazil’s globally important ecosystems. Specifically, the Project targets three Global Environmental Fund priorities: conservation of globally unique biodiversity, sustainable use of biodiversity and local participation in the benefits of conservation activities.

    Ministry of Environment, Brazilian Biodiversity Fund, Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. and state and municipality agencies.
  • Development Plan for Aquaculture (PDA)

    MPA’s (Ministry of Fishing and Aquaculture) main objective is to increase aquaculture production in Brazil aiming to reach 2 million tonnes of fisheries (Fish, Shrimps, Mussels and Oysters) by the year 2020. The PDA consists of seven small projects funded by CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development), FINEP (Brazilian innovation agency) and EMBRAPA (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation).

    Former Ministry of Fishing and Aquaculture (MPA)
  • Institutional Strengthening of the Aquaculture and Fisheries Secretariat of Brazil.

    TCP project focusses on improving the technical capacity and policies for sustainable aquaculture development in Brazil. The project aims to strengthen the ability of State Secretariat of Administration and Social Security of Paranán, developing the fundamental infrastructure of information, legal and technical components to support and enhance aquaculture production.

    Brazilian government
  • Fishery Improvement Project - Northern Brazil Caribbean red snapper - hook & line and pot/trap

    This FIP aims to develop and implement a management plan for the fishery/stock based on defining clear objectives for management for red snapper caught by hook-and-line and traps. It also works identifying the existence of one or more snapper stocks on the North and Northeast coasts.