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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Linking sustainability of small-scale fisheries, fishers’ knowledge, conservation and co-management of biodiversity in large rivers of the Brazilian Amazon

PI: Renato Silvano (, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
U.S. Partner: Kirk Winemiller, Texas A&M AgriLife Research
Project Dates:  October 2015 - June 2018

Project Overview

The occurrence and efficacy of local co-management initiatives to promote biodiversity conservation or sustainable use of natural resources are largely unknown for most of the Brazilian Amazon, especially in the less productive black and clear water rivers. This project will take a multidisciplinary approach through an integrated analysis of fishers’ local ecological knowledge, fishing dynamics, and fish ecology to evaluate potential ecological and socioeconomic outcomes of co-management systems in clear and black water rivers. The researchers will address the following main research questions: (1) Do fishing communities that are organized in some form of co-management system (for example, inside extractive reserves) have higher fishing yields, abundance of fish, and fish diversity? (2) Do the outcomes and problems related to co-management differ between clear and black water rivers? (3) How do fishing intensity and co-management influence the abundance of frugivorous and detritivorous fishes and their functional roles in these two river systems? (4) Does fishers’ knowledge provide data about temporal trends on fish abundance, fish ecology, and main fish species caught that support fishers’ food security? Dr. Silvano and his team will study four fishing communities inside and four outside Extractive Reserves (RESEX) in the clear water Tapajós River and in the black water Negro River, and all results will be compared between these two rivers and between communities with (inside the RESEX) and without (outside the RESEX) established co-management systems. The collaboration with the U.S. partner and his group will complement the project goals regarding fish ecology; comparison of fish abundance, composition, and diversity among fishing communities and between rivers; and analysis of the structure of fish communities. The planned analysis should improve understanding on potential drivers (ecological or economic) of unsustainable fishing practices that undermine conservation efforts.

The results of this research will provide invaluable empirical information currently lacking to promote governance and guide conservation policies aimed at Amazonian aquatic ecosystems. The project team’s results should help policy makers, government technicians, and natural resource managers to devise measures to alleviate the environmental pressures and to reconcile biodiversity conservation with fisheries sustainability. Findings from this project will be transferred to managers of the two studied Extractive Reserves, and the local communities will be information about project results during a workshop at the end of project and through publication of a book for laypersons. The knowledge and training to be provided to fishers, the participation of managers from the Brazilian Institute of Biodiversity Conservation, and the possible engagement of local associations could allow the continuity of resource monitoring and improvement of management activities after this project ends. This research should thus enhance the resilience of the studied communities by building capacity of local people to manage their resources, to negotiate with other stakeholders, and to cope with future changes in resources or the environment, such as dams or climatic alterations affecting the flooding regime.

Summary of Recent Activities

Dr. Silvano and his group made their last two field trips on the project, visiting Rio Tapajós (July 2017) and Rio Negro (August 2017). During the trips, they collected the remaining data on fish landings recorded by fishers and organized 17 workshops, one in each of the studied fishing communities. During these meetings, they showed and discussed project results, problems affecting fisheries, management opportunities, and potential applications of their research. They also created folders with partial project results from each community and distributed them among the fishers participating in these meetings, as well as local leaders and schools, and they provided digital copies of the presentations made at the meetings to the local schools in each community. In addition, the team held meetings with government resource managers in charge of the studied Extractive Reserves (RESEX) on the Tapajós and Negro rivers, as well as a meeting at the fisheries association of the city of Novo Airão, on Rio Negro. After the trips were completed, one of the team members, Paula Nagl, had her Master’s dissertation based on the project results approved on August 29, 2017. The title of her work is “Small-Scale Fisheries of Frugivorous Fish in Clear and Black Water Rivers of the Brazilian Amazon.”

With regard to development impacts, Dr. Silvano reports that his project results and the information gathered in meetings held with local fishing communities and managers could support at least two major fisheries policies that are being implemented in the studied regions. First, the working group on fishing accords in the Tapajós River, which has been led by the Brazilian institution in charge of the management of the reserves located along the river (ICMBio), is organizing a series of local and common-based management systems in the fishing communities, which should expand the managed area of reserves to include part of the Tapajós River. This initiative should restrict the intense fishing pressure by larger fishing boats coming from the main city in the region (Santarém), which has been one of the main problems related by fishers during the PEER team’s meetings. Second, some fishing communities inside the reserve of the Unini River want to be able to commercialize the fish caught or to participate in the more lucrative recreational fisheries. Managers are aware of these demands and are willing to implement those economic activities, but these need scientific support. The team’s research has provided data on fish abundance, fish caught by fishers, and fishers’ knowledge of fish reproduction and migration, as well as maps of relevant sites for fisheries and fish spawning.

As of October 2017, the team had collected and processed 643 samples of fish tissue, plus 116 samples of plant material (leaves and fruits). After being double-checked, the samples have been sent to the laboratory of U.S. partner Dr. Kirk Winemiller at Texas A&M University for isotopic analyses of fish diets. The PI is visiting Texas in October to discuss these analyses and other project results with the U.S. partner and his team. In the upcoming six months, the PEER researchers will continue to analyze their results and prepare publications, including a book to be published by Springer. Five abstracts have been accepted for oral presentation at the annual Scientific Conference of Students of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in October 2017. In addition, two abstracts have been submitted for poster presentation at the scientific conference III Seminário de Pesquisas da Floresta Nacional do Tapajós e I Seminario de Pesquisas da Reserva Extrativista Tapajós Arapiuns (III Research Seminar of the National Forest of Tapajós and I Research Seminar of the Extractive Reserve Tapajós Arapiuns) to be held in Santarem, Brazil, in December 2017. Thanks to a PEER supplement awarded in September, Dr. Silvano will also be collaborating with the Equipe de Conservação da Amazônia (ECAM) on a pilot project to use Open Data Kit methods to monitor fish landings on the Tapajós River.

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 Outreach activity held at an open day at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), May 20, 2017(photo credit: Dr. Silvano)

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