Fishing on the Marié River, the primary refuge for the speckled peacock bass in the Amazon. | Photo: Florian Kaiser

Indigenous sport fishing submits world record for speckled peacock bass

Caught on the Marié River, within the Médio Rio Negro I Indigenous Land,
in São Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM), the fish tipped the scales at
14kg and measured 87cm

Known as the “River of Giants,” the Marié River is the backdrop for a new type of sustainable sport fishing (catch and release), conducted in partnership with 15 indigenous communities and in accordance with a series of regulations that respect the environment and traditional peoples. As a reward for this successful pioneering initiative, Marcel Christian Griot, a fisherman from Venezuela, caught, in the most recent fishing season on the Marié River, the largest speckled peacock bass ever recorded, weighing in at 14 kg, and submitted for recognition as the new world record.

The Marié River is the primary refuge for the speckled peacock bass in the Amazon. The river is entirely surrounded by indigenous land, an area covering approximately 2 million hectares. This important tributary of the Negro River — measuring 800 km in length, with 180 streams and 60 lakes already mapped — is a highly preserved area and therefore ideal for the growth of giant fish. At the moment, the record from November 22, 2017 is being analyzed by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), in the United States.

Alcimar Lourenço (left) and Marcel Griot, who caught, in the most recent fishing season on the Marié River, the largest speckled peacock bass ever recorded, weighing in at 14 kg. Photo: Everton Pires

Sustainable project

Sport fishing enthusiasts on the Marié River are part of a unique project in the Brazilian Amazon: indigenous communities are spearheading a tourism operation in sustainable sport fishing that generates income and improvements to infrastructure in communities, while also creating new opportunities for young people and supporting an innovative monitoring and surveillance program for the territory

An initiative of the Association of Indigenous Communities of the Lower Negro River (ACIBRN), in partnership with the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of the Negro River (Foirn), Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Funai and Ibama, the Marié Project was created to meet the communities’ need for an economic activity that did not replicate the old formula of disorderly exploitation of natural resources and the indigenous population itself.

“It is a highly innovative project that respects local culture, complete with its own management plan for the area, including territorial protection and indigenous surveillance. Sport fishing is enabling communities to obtain resources and collectively invest in improvements in local infrastructure,” said Marivelton Barroso, a member of the Baré ethic group and president of Foirn, the federation that represents the 23 indigenous peoples of the middle and upper Negro River.

Regulation

The Marié River Project establishes rules for fish management by careful rotation of lakes and fishing holes to ensure rest and recuperation of animals that are captured and released. All fish are measured for a monitoring program, comprising data from this tourism/sporting activity and from environmental studies by Ibama. It is the most complete comparative sport fishing database for speckled peacock bass in a preserved and fully monitored area. Survival rates for fish are above 99.5%.

The project generated over R$150,000 in salaries for the indigenous people directly involved in the operation, during the 3-month season. Photos: Marcos Hlace, Everton Pires, Brian O'Keefe, Marcel Griot

“There have been many lessons, studies and discussions since the beginning to build a fair operational model, with environmental safety and control in the hands of the communities. We have provided training and promoted fishing tourism as a community business, unlike previous exploitative relations. The communities are improving their infrastructure, young people are involved, women are gaining ground and fish stocks are recovering. This is how the Marié Project is different and we believe that this is the only way a project on indigenous land will work. The record shows that ACIBRN is on the right track,” said anthropologist Camila Barra, from Instituto Socioambiental, who assists the indigenous communities involved in the activity.

Obstacles

Sustainable activities under indigenous control face serious threats, such as illegal mining, hunting and logging. In addition, the sport fishing sector in Brazil generally operates without regulation or oversight, based on a highly competitive, high-impact model.

This scenario of ultra-exploitation has exerted enormous pressure on Amazon rivers, threatening fish stocks and the food sovereignty of the indigenous peoples and riverside dwellers.

Regulation of tourism on indigenous land ensures the activity does not infringe upon the rights of the populations that live there: whether it be fishing tourism or ecotourism, the activity cannot threaten the physical and cultural reproduction of these peoples, nor threaten the fish that ensure their food sovereignty or impose a calendar or type of management that interferes with the decision-making or customs of these communities. This is expressed in the Brazilian Constitution.

Indigenous community tourism opens the way for a new operating model that, first of all, safeguards the territories and the decision-making powers of the communities affected.

The search for relatively unexplored regions — and in Protected Areas, whether they be Conservation Units or Indigenous Lands — has intensified, as it had on the Marié River. Before this indigenous sport fishing project, the region suffered from predatory fishing. The first step they took when organizing the activity was to discuss a fishing management plan and to discuss, with technical assistance from ISA, FUNAI and IBAMA, necessary restrictions to secure the initiative. This led to the creation of a protection and monitoring plan for the territory, to be implemented with resources from tourism.

Workshops and meetings between the communities and Untamed Angling. And investment in community improvements of around R$ 460,000 over three years was agreed. Photos: Camila Barra/ISA

“We are still fighting against illegal miners who try to enter our area and who denigrate our project. But currently it is our community tourism surveillance that protects the territory. We are working to protect the Marié River, the benefits for the communities are arriving and the river is full of fish,” said Roberto Lopes, president of ACIBRN.

It is important to remember that indigenous lands are the most protected areas of the Amazon, with deforestation affecting only 2% of the total biome. The potential for small-scale, low impact tourism lies in the control that the communities have over the operation.

The experience on the Marié River has inspired other communities to organize themselves and has opened dialogue with municipal authorities, with the understanding that regulation is beneficial for everyone. An example of this, in Santa Isabel do Rio Negro, the communities of the Téa, Jurbaxi-Tea and Uneuixi Indigenous Lands are conducting studies and experiments to organize sport fishing throughout the municipality.

Unique model

Sport fishing on the Marié River is based on a pioneering model of partnership between public institutions, organized civil society and private enterprise. The sport fishing tourism operator, Untamed Angling do Brasil, began working in the region after winning the public bid, which establish various rules for the enterprise.

See the call for bids published in 2014 with the rules established for companies to work with indigenous sport fishing.

Another novelty of the project is the participation of women in a segment dominated by men. Viviane Horácio, a member of the Baré ethnic group and Itapereira community, is the first woman trained as a sport fishing guide in the Amazon. Vivi, as she is known in the region, was a young project manager who worked in accounting at the association. Through her interest and dedication, she began to receive training and lessons in English to become a guide.

“We are pioneers in the concept of sharing ancestral indigenous experiences and professional techniques in sport fishing that provide tourists a special and unique experience,” said Rodrigo Salles, partner and CEO of Untamed Angling do Brasil.

Marié sport fishing tourism project in numbers (investment during the first three years, from 2014 to 2016):

– Approximately R$ 45,000 invested in a training program for indigenous people interested in participating and working in the tourism operation;
– Investment of R$ 216,000 in the indigenous territorial monitoring and surveillance program;
– Environmental monitoring expeditions, with participation from IBAMA and FUNAI, paid for by the company;
– A collective investment in community improvements of around R$ 460,000 over three years;
– The project generated over R$150,000 in salaries for the indigenous people directly involved in the operation, during the 3-month season;
– The cost of the intercultural teams is R$277,000 per season, and represents 12% of the total paid by the tourists.


Total of 78 tourists
American — 41
Brazilian — 19
Russian — 11
Italian — 3
Venezuelan — 2
Costa Rican -1
German — 1

Total of 107 Tourists
Brazilian — 55
American — 39
Venezuelan — 8
Spanish — 2
Canadian — 1
Costa Rican -1
Australian — 1

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From Brazilian NGO Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)

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