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Brazil’s Small Fish Farmers Have Big Plans for the Arapaima

Pará fishBrazilian small fish farmers from the Pará state are preparing to increase production of one of the most famous fish in Northern Brazil, and plan on exporting it. The intention is to lay one of the most famed representatives of Northern Brazilian cuisine on tables around the world, including fine restaurants and supermarkets.

In order to achieve the goal, 12 fish farmers from the state of Pará have decided to join project Arapaima Farming in Northeastern Pará, implemented by the local Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae), and under which they will receive consultancy to improve and organize their production.

The effort should start bearing fruit, or better yet fish, starting next year. The program comprises entrepreneurs from the cities of Bragança, Capitão Poço, Salinópolis, Santa Luzia do Pará, and São João de Pirabas, all in Pará.

“The proposal is to strengthen arapaima fishing in the region, as it was mostly made for local consumption thus far,” explains the project manager of the Sebrae Pará, Keyla Reis de Oliveira.

“We are going to start by the markets of the municipalities themselves, then the national market, and then on to foreign countries,” she says.

The Sebrae’s analyst claims that the project will start out by environmental issues, such as obtaining licensing in order to carry out the activity. Next up, it will encourage fish farmers to organize and exchange experiences.

According to Keyla, demand for the arapaima (Arapaima gigas), which is also known as pirarucu, or paiche  has increased even further after it was in danger of extinction, leading to the establishment, by the Brazilian Environment and Renewable Natural Resource Institute (Ibama), of a six-month period during which fishing is prohibited every year, to protect the species.

“Presently, one kilogram of arapaima fish sells for 30 Brazilian reais (US$ 17) at the market, and up to 50 reais (US$ 28.5 ) in supermarkets,” she says. “It is a fish variety with lots of foreign sales potential,” she asserts.

Farmer and researcher Emir Palmeira Imbiriba, a participant in the project, explains that the main obstacle is promoting the species’ reproduction.

“We cannot separate males from females just by looking. Moreover, the arapaima is monogamous, it needs a steady partner to breed,” he says.

Thus being, the well-behaved little fish require a certain amount of hard work before they start spawning offspring, a difficulty that is made up for later on.

“Once that first obstacle has been transposed, fattening is guaranteed. It suffices to say that 10 tons of arapaimas are produced per hectare/year in Pará, as against just one bull per hectare/year,” says Emir.

A champion of the Northern delicacy, he explains that the arapaima has no bones and that 57% of its weight consists of meat, as against 45% on average for most fish.

Emir dreams of the day the world will know about the species that he now breeds in captivity, in the municipality of Salinópolis, 200 kilometers away from the capital of Pará, Belém.

Anba

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