The Amazonian Giant:
Sustainable Management of Arapaima
Before it reaches the readers plate, at his or her home or at renowned restaurant, arapaima (pirarucu), circulates through Brazil. From mouth to mouth, from palate to palate, pirarucu, alongside açaí, has reached the status of the most coveted culinary prime material in Amazonia (sometimes both are eaten together in the same meal). What few people understand is the fish itself—in all its importance. Its weight, which can reach up to two hundred kilos, and the length, up to 3 meters, counted from head to tail are just two extraordinary features. the red pigmentation in the scales of the pirarucu gives the species its name, by the combination of two tupi terms: pira (fish) and urucum (red). Exuberance and grandness once took a toll on pirarucu. In certain areas of Brazil, such as the Middle Solimões, Amazonas state, the fish was at risk of local extinction during the 1980s and 1990s. With technical support from the Mamirauá Institute and via grassroots organizing from local fishers versed in management practices, pirarucu populations reestablished themselves and fish returned to the regions’ rivers and lakes. The signature management model developed in this context combines conservation with income generation and has been quite successful. Today it is being multiplied and used in other Brazilian states and Amazonian countries.
More than interesting facts about the ecology and habitat of one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, this book invites reader to “get to know,” through texts and images, how sustainable management of pirarucu is conducted and hear fishermen and fisherwomen’s stories. These tales are told by those responsible for management activities. It is an invitation to reflect upon our food origins and the ecological costs of illegal and uncontrolled fishing.