From the forest to Rio, the Taste of the Amazon Festival brings together sustainability and gastronomy

Wild pirarucu, one of the symbols of the Amazon, will be the highlight of a gastronomy festival held this July in Rio de Janeiro and two neighboring cities – Niterói and Nova Iguaçu. Over 70 restaurants will join the festival. In September, the federal capital, Brasília, and the city of Manaus, capital of Amazonas State, will host the event.

Taste of the Amazon (Gosto da Amazônia) aims to promote the consumption of pirarucu. Local chefs prepare special dishes and snacks. The event exhibits  the sustainable management efforts of Amazon Indigenous and riverine communities contributions to the preservation of the species, while supporting the economic and social development of the region.

Pirarucu is the largest freshwater scale fish in the world. It can reach three meters in length and weigh up to 200 kilos. In the 1980s, it nearly disappeared from rivers in the Amazon because of overfishing. 

Thanks to community management, an initiative launched over 20 years ago by local riverine and Indigenous communities, it is now an example of how to successfully promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable income generation for local communities. Currently, all fishing in the region requires authorization from the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA).

All productive and commercial arrangements – including fishing agreements, transportation to management sites and then to cold store facilities – are run by collective brand Gosto da Amazônia, eliminating the middlemen. Fair trade practices help to ensure better prices for pirarucu managers despite the difficulties imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Taste of the Amazon is an initiative supported by USAID/Brazil and implemented by the Pirarucu Collective, a consortium that brings together civil society and community-based organizations linked to the families engaged in pirarucu management. The US Forest Service and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) provide technical assistance to the initiative - both are PCAB’s implementing partners. The Carauari Rural Producers Association (ASPROC), which works with riverine communities in the Médio Juruá Territory (in the state of Amazonas), centralizes all commercial arrangements. 

"The strategy of supporting and paying better prices to local fishers has been successful, and has generated sustainable sources of income for riverine and Indigenous communities," says Pedro Constantino, Brazil Program Specialist of the US Forest Service.

The Pirarucu Collective's efforts have led to the inclusion of managed pirarucu in the Minimum Price Policy for Sociobiodiversity Products (PGPM-Bio), managed by the National Supply Company (CONAB), a Brazilian federal government agency.

Pirarucu now has a minimum price guaranteed by CONAB. As a result, small-scale fishers are entitled to top-up payments as long as they can provide evidence that they sold their fish for less than the minimum price. At the end of 2020, fishers in the municipality of Carauari, in southwestern Amazonas, were the first to benefit from this subsidy.

Success – At the end of 2020, the Taste of the Amazon Festival was held in São Paulo, in partnership with over 30 restaurants, which created exclusive pirarucu recipes. 

About 1.5 tons of sustainable managed pirarucu were sold and enjoyed by approximately 5,000 people. The teams from the two restaurants that sold the most pirarucu dishes – NB Steak and Le Jazz – were awarded with a cut of pirarucu and a personalized Taste of the Amazon thermal backpack. Together, they sold more than 500 kilograms of pirarucu. 

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, the teams from the winning restaurants in the July festival will receive the same prize. 

More information on this initiative is available in Portuguese here.