The Arapaima gigas – or Amazonian native seahorse fish, a giant monster with amazing abilities – has been overfished but is thriving again thanks to conservation.
In the world of fish, Arapaima, also known as sea fish, has quite an extraordinary ability. Inhabiting the Amazon Basin, they are among the largest freshwater fish in the world. Marine fish can be up to 3 m long and weigh up to 200 kg.
These fish breathe air, which allows them to live in oxygen-poor water and survive for a day when completely out of the water. They eat fish, but also birds, lizards and small mammals. The seagull crushes its prey with its toothy tongue.
Evolution not only gave this fish dangerous jaws, but also endowed them with sturdy scales that researchers have compared to bulletproof vests. This set of ladders protects him from Piranha’s attacks.
Sturdy yet flexible and flexible, this characteristic of seahorses has even caught the attention of the US Air Force.
Seahorses are the destroyers of the animal kingdom, but they also have a deadly flaw: they eat well. Known locally as Pirarucu, they are known as “Amazonian cod”, thanks to their strong meat and rare bones. Fish is an important food source for the local community, but it is also popular with gourmet diners in some of Brazil’s largest cities.
Overfishing has led to a sharp decline in seahorse numbers, and hunting protection and bans have been in place since the 1990s. However, illegal hunting continues. , causing the species to disappear completely from parts of the Amazon.
Yet thanks to the efforts of local zoologists and conservationists for two decades, this problem is improving, according to CNN.
In addition, sea urchins have not disappeared from meals. The fact that the consumption of seahorses is very high is consistent with this model of fish conservation. It also means that Brazilians continue to enjoy this fish.
Rescue of giant species of “sea monsters”
Currently, sea fishing is prohibited in Brazil, except in certain areas and legally regulated by the community, explains João Campos-Silva, a Brazilian environmentalist. Campos-Silva is a member of the Instituto Juruá – an organization that works with local residents and fishermen in a program to properly catch and revive this fish.
During the rainy season, seagulls spend all of their time moving through the flooded forests where they will breed, then return to the lake area when the water level drops.
A program – focused on the Juruá River and the surrounding lakes in the northern Amazonas region of Brazil and started by the Instituio Juruá over ten years ago – surveys the annual number of individuals and calculates the number of claims adapted to each fishing season for each lake for subsequent years (no more than 30% of mature fish are harvested, depending on the government framework).
Local communities guard the gates to the lake area year round to protect them from illegal predators. Fishing is only allowed between August and November, and anyone under 1.55m will be released into the river.
Francisco das Chagas Melo de Araújo, also known as Seu Preto, was a community leader from Xibauazinho, one of the first to implement a conservation plan.
“Before there was an order to control the number of seahorses, we had no authority to preserve this area of the lake. The commercial fishermen came and organized the extensive fishing of this fish, ”he explained. “Our lakes are fully exploited and the sea bream has been concluded to no longer exist in the lake.”
After about 11 years of management, he says there are now over 4,000 individuals in the region’s lake.
Campos-Silva’s study of the lakes around the Juruá River during the same period showed that the number of seahorses had almost quadrupled. Due to the increasing number of individuals, seahorses have migrated to new lakes, expanding their habitat. He estimates that there are currently around 330,000 fish living in more than 1,358 lakes in 35 protected areas, with more than 400 local communities responsible for management.
The income from fishing and fishing of local communities “contributes to contribute to society”, he said. Investments in the construction of schools and infrastructure, in social security protection and in health care have been increased, especially anti-sexism.
“Make the community stronger”
Raimunda Pires de Araújo, daughter of Seu Preto, says she was unable to earn an income. She is now responsible for handling and cleaning the captured fish and earns income from this work. “These lucky opportunities seem to help us increase our faith to stand up and fight for a better life,” she said.
“Our work is recognized nationally and internationally, which makes us more proud and proud to receive recognition and respect from the community and other organizations,” said Father. “We now have a chance to help other communities feel more confident and stronger,” she said.
What about a message on illegal fishing? “Work more organized and complete.”
Preto says fishermen who fish illegally should join legal fishing programs and start hunting for the wild: “The greatest pride you will have is a fishery that no one can take. Take it”.
Campos-Silva hopes that the good results of the conservation program will involve more communities and help protect the Amazon’s wildlife.
“We are facing a huge decline in the number of individual vertebrates,” he said. “We have a lot of positive results and we promise we can make it happen.”