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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

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

As of January 2018, Dr. Silvano and his group had completed all planned fieldwork and data gathering activities, including a final trip to present and discuss project results during meetings with the communities participating in the research. In late September, the PI was awarded a special supplement to support collaborative activities bringing together Brazilian PEER researchers and USAID-funded implementing partners in the country. This small grant will allow Dr. Silvano to collaborate 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, with activities set to commence at the end of February 2018. Meanwhile, he and his team are still organizing data on fish landings recorded by fishers involved in the main portion of their PEER project. Although they have already tabulated nearly 2,600 fish landings from the Negro and Tapajós Rivers, more data remain to be entered, but this process is expected to be completed by the end of February 2018. The team is also double-checking fish species identifications, a task that has proven to be more difficult than expected due to the great diversity of fish species in the Amazon. Nevertheless, they have already identified 12,585 individuals corresponding to 202 fish species, 137 species in the Negro River and 139 species in the Tapajós River (74 species occurred in both rivers). The researchers are also elaborating thematic maps of the studied rivers indicating important sites for fish (migration and spawning) and for fisheries (main fishing spots) based on information provided by interviews with 83 fishers (50 on the Tapajós and 33 on the Negro). In addition, they have processed and organized samples of fish tissue and plant material, which will be sent soon to the laboratory of U.S. partner Dr. Kirk Winemiller for isotopic analysis of fish diets.

The PI travelled to the United States in October 2017 to discuss project results with Dr. Winemiller and his team and present talks about the project results at Texas A&M University and at USAID headquarters in Washington, DC. During meetings at Texas A&M, the PI discussed potential outcomes arising from the project results in the form of publications on fish ecology in collaboration with the U.S. partner and his group. During the USAID meeting, the PI was introduced to USAID staff working on similar topics in Thailand and Senegal and discussed the potential of the project outcomes to support policies related to resource management and food security. The PI also visited the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington and talked with researchers there. These meetings and contacts made during the trip were invaluable as a source of new ideas of how to organize project results, besides providing new research contacts and insights for future research projects. Around the same time, back in Brazil the undergraduate students involved in the project made five oral presentations at the annual Scientific Conference of Students of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), held in Porto Alegre in October 2017. In December, Dr. Silvano and two other researchers from the project attended and presented two posters at the national 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) held in Santarem. This conference was organized by the managers of the Extractive Reserve that the team studied along the Tapajos River. Besides showing some of the research results and outcomes of meetings with fishers, the researchers had the opportunity to interact with counterparts working in the same region and with government officials.

During the first half of 2018, Dr. Silvano and his colleagues will be finishing the tabulation and analyses of all results gathered from fish samples, fish landings, and interviews to produce policy recommendations, abstracts to be presented in scientific meetings, and articles to be submitted for publication in scientific journals. They will also compile a book about the project results regarding fish and fisheries in the Tapajós and Negro Rivers, which will be published by Springer. This book should include detailed results about the project regarding fish diversity and fisheries, illustrated with many pictures. A student participant in the PEER project, Pedro P. Nitschke, is expected to complete his MSc. dissertation based on the project results and submit it to the Postgraduate Program in Ecology at UFRGS in March or April 2018.

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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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