The day is still dark when Edmo Rodrigues da Costa sets out in his 20-foot fishing boat, carefully maneuvering around clumps of trash and mounds of putrid sludge in the sewage-infested waters of Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay.
For 30 years, Costa has trolled the bay that will host Olympic sailing events in 2016, setting his nets by the pink dawn light, hoping to catch sea bass, Atlantic bigeyes and shrimp.
But slowly, year after year, the catches have diminished.
A good day out two decades ago would bring in $200 worth of fish. Today, Costa says a successful haul fetches $50. Sometimes, the floating refuse he finds is worth more than his catch, like the recent day he found two large planks of hardwood and yanked them aboard.
He and 30 or so other fishermen work out of the garbage-strewn docks sitting right under the Red Line highway leading to the international airport, where the polluted waters of the Fundao and Cunha canals meet to flow into Guanabara. The men blame industrial and sewage pollution for their empty nets.
"We're here in this sewage, living here with this trash," Costa says. "Nothing is done to clean it up."
The fishermen bring their catches to a market on the dock, which sells fish at lower prices than supermarkets.
Studies by biologists and health experts recommend that any fish from the bay be "well cooked" to kill any bacteria or virus. But there have been no warnings from Rio's government against eating fish from the waters.
Rio state authorities say they're working to make good on a pledge made in Rio's Olympic bid to cut the bay's pollution by 80 percent.
But Costa and the other fishermen who see the water up close say they've witnessed little improvement. High tides bring in waves of garbage daily. They don't even bother trying to keep the docks clean — the sea will just deliver every imaginable piece of garbage that's dumped into the rivers flowing into the bay.
Manuel Batista de Moraes, who at 76 no longer goes out on the water, makes his living mending fishing nets. It's a constant task, he says, because the trash rips nets apart.
"In the past we fished all kinds of species right here in this canal," he says while weaving nylon strands together as dock cats prowl for fish scraps. "Now it's just full of filth and more filth."
See more images of Rio's Olympic Bay
Follow Leo Correa | Twitter: @
Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Fishermen lament Rio's dirty Olympic bay, by Leo Correa.
Spotlight is the blog of AP Images, the world’s largest collection of historical and contemporary photos. AP Images provides instant access to AP’s iconic photos and adds new content every minute of every day from every corner of the world, making it an essential source of photos and graphics for professional image buyers and commercial customers. Whether your needs are for editorial, commercial, or personal use, AP Images has the content and the expert sales team to fulfill your image requirements. Visit apimages.com to learn more.
Written content on this site is not created by the editorial department of AP, unless otherwise noted.
Nat Castañeda is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Brooklyn, New York. A California native, Castañeda works primarily in video and collage, with an emphasis on tactile intimacy with her materials remaining an important aspect of all her projects. Common issues in Castañeda’s work are the conflating of iconography and pornography, the questioning of traditional gender binaries, and the role of technology within personal narratives. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts and has shown at venues such as El Museo del Barrio and Electronic Arts Intermix. In addition to her art practice, Castañeda currently works at The Associated Press where she leads a team that curates AP's online archive of historic and contemporary photojournalism. Castañeda’s photography has appeared in the New York Times,U.S. News & World Report and USA Today.