Strategic Opportunities for the Fish Chain in the Amazon

Resex Verde Forever - Photo Rui Trombeta - Instituto Interelos

Fish Farming Project at Resex Verde Para Semper Opens Sustainable Income Opportunities

Last month, the team of experts from the Interelos Institute undertook another field trip to the Verde Para Semper Extractive Reserve, located at the mouth of the Xingu River. Created in 2004 as a response to conflicts between local communities and loggers, the reserve's primary mission is to contain deforestation, curb predatory logging and ensure land tenure regularization for the communities involved.

The region, especially the municipality of Porto de Moz, faces considerable socioeconomic challenges with the Municipal Human Development Index below the state average. Fishing activity, historically crucial in the Amazon as a source of income, faces environmental threats and impacts, many of which originate from human activities.

On this journey, fishing engineer Rui Trombeta accompanied the group on the immersion into the reserve territory. Its mission involved mapping the region, seeking to identify strategic opportunities for the implementation of fish farming. Regarding the importance of the trip, he highlights:

“It was essential to visualize the potential of the region, especially in the floodplain area, which has unique characteristics, being flooded for approximately six months a year. This peculiarity requires a careful approach to enable the development of fish farming by raising native fish.”

Rui Trombeta

Sustainable solutions aligned with reality

With more than 15 years of experience in this sector, the engineer emphasizes the need for solutions that are in tune with the dynamics of local nature, considering the seasonal variations of the river, which periodically floods the vast plains. It also highlights that essential infrastructure, such as houses, schools and boats, are adapted to face such conditions. However, he highlights the challenges that exist in current economic activities, especially in buffalo farming, which, alongside fishing, is the main source of income for riverside communities.

Despite being adapted to the region, buffalo herds have significant environmental and social impacts, including the silting of river banks and the formation of streams. Trombeta recognizes the complexity of finding viable alternatives due to the region's unique characteristics, highlighting the need for innovative approaches to balance economic development and environmental preservation. 

“Every economic activity has an impact. No activity has zero impact, but it needs to be mitigated and, compared to what exists, the impact of fish farming is much smaller.”

Rui Trombeta

Currently, riverside communities, which rely on artisanal fishing and buffalo farming as their main source of subsistence, see fish farming as a valuable opportunity to diversify the local economy. This transition represents not only a search for food security, but also a path towards more sustainable income generation. 

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Dialogue and conflict mediation

During a visit to seven communities, the reception was warm, providing a crucial space to dialogue and clarify fishermen's doubts. Discussions addressed potential solutions to challenges faced and the essential standards to be established to create a controlled environment, such as that needed for an excavated vivarium.

Photo: Rui Trombeta – Instituto Interelos

Artisanal fishing, which historically supports these communities, is facing significant transformations. The interaction with the specialized engineer provided fundamental clarifications, as fish farming emerges as a transformative activity for the community. The feasibility of this transition will be detailed in a comprehensive study, to be presented by the end of the year, including comparisons with other existing practices in the region. A gradual change in local culture is vital, considering that, in the long term, fish farming demonstrates superior financial capacity.

Conflict mediation, establishment of agreements and other approaches will be fundamental to reducing dependence on the herd, especially in the context of buffalo farming, which, although it is an entrenched practice, presents environmental and social challenges. 

Feasibility and innovation study

During the initial phase, after debating ideas and primary planning, the team conducted the field stage, essential to establish premises and begin the feasibility study. The search for innovative solutions is evident, combining global technologies with adaptation to local reality, resulting in a project with potential for replicability.

According to Trombeta, “the local market for the species is promising, internal trade is robust, especially during floods, when the supply of fish decreases, it is possible to manage this dynamic. Tambaqui already has consolidated technology, with specific feed, adaptable to the reality of the Extractive Reserve and its communities”.

The second phase of the project will involve obtaining authorizations from ICMBIO and competent bodies, followed by an experimental phase. This stage will include the implementation of a school nursery, training communities and consolidating technologies. Subsequently, the gradual replication of the model will occur in other interested communities that demonstrate environmental, social and legal viability, marking a significant advance towards economic sustainability in the region.

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A long history of preservation 

Erisvaldo Barbosa, president of the Association of Artisanal Fishermen of Porto de Moz (ASPAR), highlights that since its creation in 1995, the association has fought for the preservation of artisanal fishing in the region, but that the desire to implement fish farming already existed among they. The opportunity to move forward only materialized, however, with the arrival of professionals from the Interelos Institute, which, in partnership with the CDS (Porto de Moz Sustainable Development Committee), has been structuring the development of the fishing chain in the region. 

Fish farming emerges as a possibility to overcome the structural limitations of artisanal fishing, providing greater scale, production predictability and access to stable markets.

“What is missing are new alternatives to replace activities that impact nature. So, we hope that this study will bring us greater security in the face of this scenario that presents itself.”

Erisvaldo Barbosa

It is expected that, with the implementation of fish farming, the Verde Para Semper Extractive Reserve, the largest in Brazil, will be able to overcome the barriers faced by artisanal fishing, adding value to the fish market and promoting sustainable economic development in the region. The feasibility study, which will be presented by the end of the year, will outline the path to transforming the vision into reality, opening up opportunities for riverside communities in the Brazilian Amazon.

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