dredging and dredge-spoil disposal are among the major problems in coastal management. many of the scientific contributions concerning the impacts of this practice are based on the study of sessile organisms and subtropical environments. we evaluated changes in the composition and abundance of a fish assemblage resulting from dredging and sediment disposal at the mouth and in the adjacent waters of the caravelas river on the north-eastern coast of brazil. samples were collected in two directly impacted and three adjacent areas. differences among stations were not significant, but the dredged site had the least diverse station, as expected. the stations farthest from the directly impacted areas apparently were not influenced by the coastal work, thus suggesting localised effects. the contribution of the present study is particularly important because of the study area's proximity to others that have high conservation value such as mangrove forests and coral reefs, and the relevance of the subject given the continuing dredging activity.