New cold storage warehouse allows fisherman of Medio Juruá river to freeze and store their sustainable pirarucu

Sustainable management activities carried out by riverine and Indigenous communities in the Médio Juruá territory are essential for the conservation of wild pirarucu in the Amazon, and help to strengthen the pirarucu production chain and generate income for local managers. These communities can benefit from a new processing facility in the municipality of Carauari (AM).

The Carauari cold storage warehouse has the capacity to process 5 tons of fish per day, on average, and store up to 300 tons of fish. An adult pirarucu can grow up to 3 meters in length, and weigh up to 200 kilograms.

Employees cut, freeze, and package their product. In addition to pirarucu, other fish are also  processed, such as tambaqui and surubim.

Installation and management are under the responsibility of the Carauari Rural Producers Association (ASPROC). Previously, they relied on outsourced facilities, which gave rise to costs and operational difficulties. The warehouse was built thanks to a number of partnerships, including support from USAID/Brazil. 

The sustainable management of wild pirarucu, one of the largest scaled fish in the world, ensures the forests and waters in the areas where the activity takes place are protected from threats and external pressures. It promotes the conservation of pirarucu and other species, maintaining ecosystem services, helping to avoid carbon emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Between 2012 and 2016, the pirarucu population in monitored conservation units increased, on average, 19% per year, according to a survey conducted by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). However, in the Médio Juruá alone, the fish count has grown by more than 70% in the past four years, from around 14,300 in 2018 to almost 25,000 in 2021.

“Our key focus for the cold storage warehouse is our local production. In the past, we had to send all our fish to be processed in Manaus, and that increased our costs. Our fishing managers had more expenses. Our goal is to reduce costs, ensure a high-quality production, and consequently provide higher income and quality of life to our managers,” says Manuel Siqueira, president of ASPROC.

For Adevaldo Dias, ASPROC advisor and president of the Chico Mendes Memorial, the warehouse will ensure processing takes place in a location closer to the fishing communities, contributing even more to the quality of their product. “It can guarantee a fair price for managers, and add autonomy to the whole chain. In addition, we have managed to engage more local residents by training them to work at the site," says Dias.

Training — Currently, 12 people from Médio Juruá communities have been hired to work at the new facility, half of whom are women. They were appointed by the communities themselves, and underwent training.

“Community members have been trained and as the owners, they feel increasingly responsible for the sustainability, the work, and the quality of the product processed here,” summarizes Siqueira.

The focus on quality is clear in the words of Everaldo dos Santos Araújo, who works at the warehouse. A resident of the Bauana community, located in the Uacari Sustainable Development Reserve, Araújo says that the warehouse was “a dream come true after much struggle”.

“Thanks to the people who represent the association today, and to their commitment and responsibility, we have managed to build this facility here. I was chosen by my community, passed the test, took the training, and today I'm working here. It's a source of pride, and it's gratifying for me,” says Araújo, a father of ten.

He adds: “I left my family in the community, but I'm here to help more and more, to give my best so that we can become stronger. Today we are working with fish managed by us, and that we have preserved."

Learn more about this project on the websites: PCAB, PPA and SITAWI.