Peru, Brazil Research Arapaima Production


Michael Mackey, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Lima, Peru

Published on
November 19, 2008

Peru and Brazil will create a "strategic alliance" to jointly promote production and marketing of the arapaima, a South American tropical freshwater fish, the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute (IIAP) announced earlier this month.

The alliance will involve government, the private sector and local communities and seek to establish an environmentally profitable bio-trade, that aims to boost production of this fish without harming the environment, Luis Campos, director of the IIAP, told Peru’s Andina news agency.

The IIAP will hold a meeting in February for the regional governments of Ucayali, San Martin, Loreto and the Brazilian National Institute of Amazonian Research, among other institutions, Campos told Andina. IIAP is a Peruvian institution focused on scientific and technological research for development and sustainable use of biodiversity in the Amazonian region.

"The aim is to achieve strategic alliances for the resource management, give added value to our products and strengthen scientific research," said Campos.

However, Campos did not elaborate on how a bi-national marketing strategy would work. The idea is new, especially in South America, where nationalism is usually the norm, especially concerning natural resources.

The arapaima, pirarucu or paiche (Arapaima gigas) is a South American tropical freshwater fish. One of the largest freshwater fish in the world, arapaima can reportedly grow up to 4.5 meters (14.75 feet) long and weigh up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds), although there is some debate about this.

Arapaima breathe oxygen, so it stays near the surface but can dive and has been successful in adapting to swamp waters. It is a predator, eating smaller fish and on occasion birds.

It is the largest freshwater fish in South America and is one of the continent’s most sought-after food fish species . It is captured primarily by handheld nets for export or by spearfishing for local consumption. As a result, large arapaima of more than 2 meters are seldom found in the wild today. It is consumed mostly in Brazil and there are fears for its survival as a species, with some conservation groups listing it as "becoming scarce but not yet extinct."

One report suggested each fish yields 70 kilograms of edible flesh, which is boneless, an attractive commercial proposition. Native to South America, it has been introduced in Thailand and Malaysia.

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