The Amazonian fish arapaima is going extinct, according to a new research. Caroline Arantes, a doctoral student in wildlife and fisheries science at Texas A&M University in College Station conducted a study along with her colleagues, on the state of the giant fish.
Arapaima is a fresh water fish capable of reaching gigantic sizes. Specimens can weigh up to 400 pounds (180 kg) and measure 10 feet long. The characteristics make Arapaima the largest fresh water fish in the Amazon River basin.
The Amazonian fish arapaima has a special characteristic. The fish can breathe like other fishes through a system of gills. However, arapaima possesses a primitive lung that can help it breathe air. With this double breathing system, the fish managed to adapt to a wide range of conditions, including low-oxygen level areas.
By using the secondary breathing system, the fish makes itself visible to fishermen. Arapaima reaches the surface once every 5 to 15 minutes to breathe air. Local fishermen in canoes use harpoons to catch massive specimens.
Probably the locals have a healthy life, as the consumption of fish, cooked otherwise than fried, provides many benefits to the brain’s health.
Amazonian fish arapaima is overfished, but thrives in communities with regulated fishing
Only three out of the five known arapaima species are known to be located in the wild during the last decades. Fishing arapaima is unregulated and is believed that locals fished those specimens to extinction.
There is not so much regulation concerning arapaima, as ‘bioeconomics’ have dominated Brazilian governmentality.”Bioeconomic thinking has predicted that scarcity would drive up fishing costs, which would increase price and help save depleted species,” said Leandro Castello assistant professor of fisheries at Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environments. “If that prediction were true, extinctions induced by fishing would not exist, but that is not what has happened.”
Researchers interviewed fishermen from 81 communities about arapaima. It seems that in almost a fifth of them the arapaima is no longer present. In almost 60 percent of the communities, arapaima is on the verge of extinction, while in the rest of the communities the fish is overexploited.
Some good news comes from the communities who adopted local fishing regulations. The arapaima populations thrive in those areas, offering an incentive for neighboring communities to act similarly. The Amazonian fish arapaima story is surely more complex than one portraying uncivilized locals who require imposed regulations. However, that is another story requiring the study of the complex economic background.