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Giant Amazon fish becoming extinct in many fishing communities, saved in others


Arapaima The arapaima fish has been overfished in some Amazon communities, but populations are thriving in those that have imposed fishing restrictions. Photo by Sergio Ricardo de Oliveira

Nov. 15, 2014 – An international team of scientists discovered that a large, commercially important fish from the Amazon Basin has become extinct in some fishing communities. The arapaima is a 10-foot long fish that can weigh more than 400 pounds.

The research was based on interviews with 182 fishers in 81 communities and on fish counts in 41 communities, accounting for 650 square miles of floodplain area. The results, reported in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems, indicate that arapaima populations are extinct in 19 percent of communities, depleted (approaching extinction) in 57 percent, and over-exploited in 17 percent.

Only 27 percent of communities surveyed have management rules for fishing arapaima. However, arapaima density in those communities where rules are enforced is as much as 100 times higher than in communities without management rules or where rules are not enforced.

“Many previously overexploited arapaima populations are now booming due to good management,” said Assistant Professor Leandro Castello, who led the study. “The time has come to apply fishers’ ecological knowledge to assess populations, document practices and trends, and solve fisheries problems through user participation in management and conservation.”

Read the full press release.

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