Discussing community management and monitoring of pirarucu in protected areas - 05/2018

Pirarucu (Arapima gigas) is the largest freshwater fish in the Amazon and a threatened species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) authorizes harvest only for fishery management projects.

The sustainable management of pirarucu has great
culture importance, high potential commercial value
and adds value to standing forest. USAID/Brazil
supports the management of the pirarucu value chain
since 2016 in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service
(USFS) and ICMBio as part of its strategy to
implement the National Policy for Territorial and Environmental Management of Indigenous Lands (PNGATI).

From May 21 through 23, one hundred and twenty representatives of fishers collectives, community associations, indigenous groups, non-governmental, academic, and governmental organizations met in Manaus to hear results from an assessment of the status of pirarucu fishery management in protected areas of Amazonas state, implemented over the last ten months by the non-governmental organizations Operação Amazônia Nativa (OPAN) and Conservation Strategy Fund.

Following presentations and discussion of the results, participants split into working groups to discuss and develop strategic actions plans to address the three key bottlenecks to a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable fishery: 1)

Factors that drive the low price paid to fishers; 2) Limited and inappropriate infrastructure to process fish such that it meets health regulations; 3) Social organization and technical capacity for production.

The USFS and ICMBio will take the resulting action plans into consideration for community-based pirarucu management, including market access. More importantly, it is expected that other stakeholder agencies, including regulators and funders, incorporate these recommendations into their work plans to ensure strategic complementarity and shared goals.

A key finding of the assessment is the significant and previously unrecognized cost of lake vigilance, which is borne completely by communities, using their own equipment. Communities within protected areas manage oxbow lakes to allow pirarucu populations to increase before seeking a legal commercial quota from the federal environmental regulation agency. Pirarucu are fished in some lakes while other lakes are maintained for preservation or for subsistence use only. Such management has allowed pirarucu fish populations to recover rapidly within protected areas, leading to intense pressure from outsiders who invade the reserves and illegally exploit fish stocks. Communities deploy small boats and floating platforms to maintain a round-the-clock presence at the most vulnerable lakes to deter these invaders. The current market price of the fish is well below the production and vigilance costs, making this management system, with its well-documented, positive conservation impacts, a perfect target for a payment for ecosystem services program.

On May 24 and 25, the Ecological Research Institute (IPÊ) and the Brazilian National Center for Research and Conservation of Biodiversity in the Amazon (CEPAM/ICMBio) held a workshop to define a protocol for monitoring the management of pirarucu. The event was held in Manaus, following the pirarucu assessment discussions with a smaller group of representatives from USAID, ICMBio, IBAMA, indigenous groups, NGOs and academia.