Environmental News from South America:
- A new study says that fishers in the Amazon Basin are catching smaller species of fish than before, indicating overexploitation of the region’s aquatic biodiversity.
- The study looked at fish catch data from six river ports (three each in Peru and Brazil) to conclude that “fisheries are losing their resilience and progressing towards possible collapse.”
- Researchers say freshwater fish stocks in the Amazon have never been a priority for conservation or monitoring, which has allowed this decline to occur over the course of decades.
- The loss of larger fish deprives communities for whom fish is a dietary staple of important nutrients and impoverishes the wider river ecosystem.
Fish are an essential part of the diet for most people living in the Amazon Rainforest. But overfishing is seriously threatening biodiversity and the ecosystem’s ability to feed people, according to the first large-scale pan-Amazonian survey of fisheries.
“Amazon fisheries are showing clear signs of overexploitation, and we see indications this is threatening sustainability,” Sebastian Heilpern, a presidential postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University and the study’s lead author, told Mongabay on a video call from New York.
The U.S.-led study, conducted in cooperation with several South American partners and the Wildlife Conservation Society, collected data in six main urban ports: Chachapoyas, Pucallpa, and Iquitos in Peru, and Porto Velho, Manaus, and Santarém in Brazil.
Fishers coming into these ports are required to report the origin, amount and species of fish they catch. This information, known as landings data, is the only type of long-term data on fish from the Amazon, spanning the previous 12 to 34 years, depending on the city.
Landings data reveal that the average size of the fish brought to port has decreased over time, meaning that the larger species are declining and being replaced by smaller species in the fishers’ catch.
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