Contact Us  |  Search  
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research
Development, Security, and Cooperation
Policy and Global Affairs
Home About Us For Applicants For Grant Recipients Funded Projects Email Updates

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

4-082 Fisherman

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

Thanks to a small grants program created by PEER to support new collaborations between PEER principal investigators and researchers on other biodiversity projects being directly funded by USAID in Brazil, Dr. Silvano received a supplement to run a pilot project to monitor fish landings in the Tapajos River using mobile phones with Open Data Kit (ODK) technology. He and his team began the activities related to this supplementary project during a fieldwork trip from February 25 to March 9, 2018. During this trip, they met with a researcher from the other USAID partner institution involved, as well as with fishers in three selected communities on the Tapajos River: Alter do Chão, Parauá, and Cametá. These three communities provide a broad spatial coverage (around 100 kilometers) along the Tapajos River, and the team has already worked with them to collect fish landings data through participatory methods, thus allowing comparisons between the methodology used previously and the novel approach of this pilot project to record fish landings through ODK. After explaining the new activity to community leaders and fishers, team members selected two or three people in each site, provided them with mobile phones, and trained them on using the ODK format to record fish landings. The trained collectors are assigned the task of recording fish landings from all fishers in the community (or those that agreed to collaborate in the research) during 10 days per month for March, April, and May 2018. At the end of each month or beginning of the next, the collectors must submit the recorded data online, receiving in return a monthly stipend equivalent to the value of an undergraduate grant in a Brazilian university. Meanwhile, to finish up on the remaining work on their original PEER project, team members also conducted additional interviews in eight fishing communities upstream on the Tapajos River, between the cities of Aveiro and Itaituba. Besides providing additional data for other regions of the Tapajos River that can be compared with our previous data, this trip provides a link between this project and the team’s future research project in the Tapajos, which is funded by the Canadian government. So far on the PEER project, they have tabulated 3,760 fish landings recorded (2,268 landings on the Tapajos and 1,492 on the Negro), not counting records that were excluded due to missing or unreliable data. The researchers are still checking identifications of some fish species and should have the complete species list soon. They have finished digitizing maps based on fishers’ knowledge about migration, reproduction, and fishing grounds of seven fish species, resulting in 219 maps of all three topics for all species (137 maps for the Tapajos and 82 maps for the Negro). Furthermore, they have sent processed samples of fish tissue and plants to the laboratory of their U.S. partner for isotope analyses of fish diets and are currently awaiting the results.

Although the project is not set to end until the end of June 2018, the PI reports some potentially major impacts. An official from the Extractive Reserve Tapajos-Arapiuns, which was studied in the PEER project, has expressed interest in the project results, especially those related to fishing activities inside the reserve. The PI met with him in late February 2018, and the manager explained that the Brazilian government in collaboration with fishing communities should start to enforce fishing rules on commercial fishers from outside the protected areas, who will have a quota of 500 kg of fish per fishing boat when fishing in the Tapajos River. This management arrangement will be officially recognized by the Brazilian authorities and should start soon. However, this arrangement requires that communities inside the two protected areas of the Tapajos River (Extractive Reserve Tapajos-Arapiuns and the National Forest of Tapajos) must set up regular fishing monitoring systems, in order to properly evaluate the outcome of the management rules. Therefore, managers of extractive reserves in the Amazon and in the protected areas in Tapajos River should initiate or stimulate initiatives for fisheries co-management or monitoring among local communities. In such context, the manager showed great interest in the participatory approach Dr. Silvano and his group developed as part of the PEER project and especially in the new method of ODK monitoring through mobile phones, which is currently being tested. These methods would help them to get needed data on fishing dynamics (species caught, gear used, among others) from fishing communities inside the protected areas affected by the fishing agreement. During the meeting the manager mentioned that he would be willing to collaborate with the PEER team in a future project aimed at developing and running a three-year participatory monitoring system for fisheries in selected communities of the two protected areas of the Tapajos River. Besides this new proposal, the data already gathered on fishing could serve as a baseline to evaluate future changes on fishing resources.

In addition, the PI and other project researchers met with March with officials from ICMBio, with the aim of discussing ideas and developing methods and protocols to apply fishers’ knowledge to evaluate population trends and distribution and conservation status of fish species, especially those of conservation concern. This initiative represents an important step in adjusting conservation policies to reduce ongoing conflicts between fishers, researchers, and managers of conservation units resulting from the implementation of a national list of threatened fish species issued in 2014. This list suddenly banned fishing of some fish species that had been exploited regularly by fishers and have high commercial value. Another complicating factor is that closely related fish species may have distinct conservation statuses and a given species may be threatened in one region while still maintaining viable populations in others. On top of all these concerns there is the lack of biological or fisheries data for most exploited fish in most Brazilian regions, including the Brazilian Amazon. During the meeting, Dr. Silvano and his team used the data gathered during the PEER project and other studies to show some options for using fishers’ knowledge to improve assessments of fish conservation status and adjust conservation policies to local and regional realities. The results of this PEER project regarding fishers’ knowledge on temporal trends of abundance, size, and composition of exploited fish will be an invaluable input to these efforts to include fishers in regional and even national conservation policies.

With the project end date approaching at the end of June 2018, the researchers aim to finish their data analyses, produce a final list of species collected, compare the performance of the ODK-based method with the standard method for recording fish landings, and produce the first complete draft of a book on the project results, which will be published by Springer. Several papers will be presented at international conferences, and graduate student Pedro Nitschke is expected to complete his MSc. Dissertation based on project results in May. Additional papers will be submitted for publication international journals.

4-82 outreach_student_1_rightsized4-82 outreach_student_2_rightsized4-82 outreach_student_3
 Outreach activity held at an open day at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), May 20, 2017(photo credit: Dr. Silvano)

Back to PEER Cycle 4 Grant Recipients