Amazon Catch & Release Techniques

Implementation Techniques for an Optimized Catch and Release Sport Fishery
as a Tool for Sustainable Harvest

The following review suggests ways in which a catch and release sportfishery can be used to help protect environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas. In keeping with the goal of preserving natural regions while promoting sustainable harvest economies, the proposed concepts focus on ways to minimize environmental impact and to maximize benefits to local populace in "real-world", field applications. Acute Angling strongly supports and faithfully follows the techniques suggested herein. -more information -

By Paul Reiss


Catch and release fishing has been demonstrated to be an extremely effective aquatic conservation and environmental protection mechanism. Widely used as a tool for the preservation of fish fauna, catch and release has been studied in great detail for nearly a half century. Shown to be more environmentally effective than the simple closing of aquatic areas, catch and release fishing is used in most environmentally advanced societies (1).

Aquatic fauna in any region, whether or not man is present, vary in population success over time, primarily due to a range of external factors and conditions. Natural factors define a fishery's capacity to support fish of all types, for instance: Rapidly variable weather and water level changes directly affect the fish's survival medium. Food supply and predation create an additional impact, typically cyclically raising and lowering specific species populations. Migratory behavior causes exposure to varied water types, conditions and hazards. Man, with his attendant environmental effects, such as commercial fish harvesting and pollution (water quality) can act as significant modifiers to these natural variables and incrementally affect the natural capacity of a fishery.

With few exceptions, in an unrestrained or undammed river system, man is unable to control natural factors. Therefore, uncontrollable natural conditions will continue to be primary defining factors of a fishery's overall characteristics and capacities. Man's artificial impact, whether minimal or extremely adverse, can, however, be controlled. Where an area is subject to significant human impact because of uncontrolled poaching, substantial improvements can be made by the introduction of low impact catch and release fishing programs. Increased surveillance of the river by catch and release fishermen can lead to significant reductions in poaching. Further, sport fishing produces regional economic benefits, resulting in greater community stewardship of the aquatic resources by the local population. Human impact can be made decidedly positive by substituting an intelligent program of non-consumptive, catch and release fishing (a form of sustainable harvest) for pre-existing, uncontrolled, haphazard exploitation.

This review discusses the positive effects and applicability of the concept of catch and release fishing, using carefully selected techniques appropriate for the natural conditions and species make-up of a region. By using techniques that assure minimal environmental impact and very low mortality on fish fauna, sport fishing, with its associated tourism, can significantly increase the economic benefit to a region while simultaneously decreasing the incidence and negative impact of commercial fishing, poaching and meat hunting (100% mortality). A properly implemented program of catch and release sport fishing can create a human accessible fishery maintained in a natural state, protected by the alternative economic benefits brought to what might otherwise be an adversely impacting regional human population.

Specifically, this review analyzes the potential environmental and economic benefits of applying a program of catch and release fishing on remote river systems on the fringe of the Amazon basin. Observations were made on a highlands river in the northern fringe of the Amazon basin to assess the sport fishing potential of the waters of the region. The species present, their sport fishing characteristics, spawning activities and the present effects of human activity were examined. These findings led to an analysis of the scientific literature available for the purpose of assessing potential catch and release mortality. Those results demonstrate that a catch and release program designed specifically for the observed fishery would create minimal environmental impact. (See the related paper, "Catch and Release Effectiveness and Mortality".)

Observations of the result of implementing controlled catch and release fishing programs elsewhere in the Amazon basin show that such activities have resulted in the reduction of preexisting negative impacts on the environment and have created net environmental benefits. (See the related paper, "Observations of the Effects of Catch and Release Fishing in the Amazon Basin".) Simultaneously, significant economic benefits have been observed in the regions involved as a result of controlled, selective, sport fishing tourism activity.

Understanding the environmental importance of Amazon fringe forest/savannah environments as a protective buffer zone of the Amazon basin as a whole and recognizing the value of the existing research performed in these unique ecosystems, as well as the future research potential, puts the necessity of protecting these regions into stark relief. The implementation of specifically designed catch and release sport fishing programs offers the potential of enhancing the protection of these regions as well as creating additional research opportunities relating to the regions' aquatic resources.

Exploratory Findings

2002 Exploratory Trip - Two separate exploratory sport fishing expeditions to the targeted region were mounted successively in March, 2002 and January, 2003. The first of these expeditions was cut short by the loss of function of one the boats used. The type of boat used was inappropriate for the river's natural rapids, corridors and cascades. The first expedition, therefore, gathered very little hard data and provided only a preliminary overview of the river's fishing potential.

The limited fishing opportunities that were available, however, provided clear evidence of the existence of adequate numbers of desirable gamefish species. Over a three day period, within approximately 16 man hours of fishing time, four anglers caught approximately 25 trophy gamefish using artificial lures. Many other fish were encountered but not caught because of an unsuited selection of artificial lures. In spite these of limited data gathering opportunities, enough sport fish were encountered to justify the preparation of a better equipped and more extensive second expedition.

2003 Exploratory Trip - A second expedition was mounted using boats appropriate to the conditions in the area and with a proper selection of lures and terminal tackle. Three groups of six anglers per group spent one week each in the fishery, for a total expedition duration of three weeks. Each week averaged five days of fishing with approximately 5 hours of fishing time available to each angler each day. The total expedition fishing time, therefore amounted to approximately 450 man hours of fishing time. Table 1 shows the number of fish caught per species, per week.

Table 1
2003 Expedition - Fish Totals
  Payara Pirapitinga Catfish Total
Week 1 105 13 6 124
Week 2 132 19 0 151
Week 3 103 24 11 138
Totals 340 56 17 413

During the 2003 Expedition, a total of 413 fish were caught, predominantly payara (pirandira). All payara were caught on artificial lures. Pirapitinga were generally caught opportunistically, using lures intended for payara. Several were intentionally angled using baited (with fruit) circle hooks. All catfish were caught on baited circle hooks. Only two fish (payara) of the total 413 caught were observed to be mortally injured and were harvested. All other sport fish caught by the tourist anglers were released.

During both expeditions, unauthorized individuals were observed fishing and apparently illegally harvesting fish of several species. It is not certain whether they were fishing for commercial resale or simply for their own consumption; however the number of fish poached was significant. During the second expedition, two boats with three individuals in each boat were observed filling a total of four large (approximately one cubic meter), reinforced, insulated containers with fish. It is estimated that each of these containers could easily hold fifty fish averaging five kilograms. The observed individuals used a hidden campsite on a small island in the region as a base and completed their harvest during a two day period. Vehicles were observed parked at a recently cut, obscured clearing near the riverbank. Clearly, human as well as natural factors were affecting this fishery.

Observed Sport fishing Characteristics of a Highlands Fishery

Pirandira/Payara, Pirapitinga/Pacu and Jau/Catfish are among the species in these regions that are of interest to touristic sport fisherman, using a variety of fishing techniques. Payara, because of their aggressive piscivorous feeding behavior, are preferentially pursued by anglers using artificial lures or flies that imitate their natural baitfish prey. Payara's rapid attack and run tendencies help to assure that they are almost always hooked superficially in the lips and jaw when artificial lures are used. Payara caught in the first two expeditions were carefully unhooked, resuscitated and then observed swimming freely in low current, sheltered areas.

Pirapitinga were also most commonly caught using either artificial lures or flies, however, on occasion they were also caught with fruit-baited circle hooks. Both methods resulted consistently in lip and jaw hooking. Every pirapitinga released was observed to swim away strongly.

Jau Catfish were caught with heavy tackle using cut bait (piranha) on very large (size 14/0) non-offset circle hooks. These specially designed hooks, with their recurved points are designed to prevent "deep" hooking in the gullet or gills of fish. Every fish landed was hooked in the corner of the mouth. Unhooking was fast and simple to perform. Every fish swam away vigorously.

All of the species discussed appear to move seasonally within the fishery and its outlet systems and perhaps beyond. Michael Goulding, A.L. Val, Nigel Smith and Dennis Mahar each describe these species as being migratory to varying degrees (see references and additional sources). Applying catch and release fishing regulations and limiting this fishery to qualified, exclusive access could prove invaluable to the local area and the region as a whole by helping to protect this sensitive region from on-going illegal harvesting. Targeted research and further information gathering in the area should be considered to improve the knowledge base and understanding of the fishery's characteristics, nursery and hatchery potential and interrelationships with the greater region as a whole.

Fishery Specific Optimization Techniques

The core concept of catch and release fishing presumes that, by releasing fish caught as a result of sport fishing, these fish will continue to be available for natural purposes: breeding, predation, and provision of food to other species, as well as available for others to catch again. Recognizing that a gamefish is too valuable a resource to be caught once and squandered, catch and release fishing enables potential human consumers involved in fish catching for sporting purposes to perform the activity without actually consuming the resource. Catch and release fishing thereby adds a new level of economic benefit to the existing natural benefits of the resource. This is a prototypical example of sustainable harvest and is a compelling argument favoring a non-consumptive approach to a fishery (2).

A region's fishery and aquatic resources can be protected by designating it as a "no-kill" or "catch and release only" fishery. By definition, a sport fishery does not require fish harvesting. The purpose of touristic sport fishing is to provide an exotic fishing experience to anglers who are in pursuit of photographs of trophy size fish. It is actually attractive to touristic sport fishermen to fish in an area designated as a "catch and release only" fishery. Anglers seeking physical trophies are able to obtain accurate fiberglass replicas made from the information provided by photographs and the weight reading on the Boga-grip tool. The International Gamefish Association (IGFA) promotes the use of catch and release programs and sanctions world records documented by photographs and Boga-grip weighing, without requiring that a trophy fish be killed. These practices ensure that even large, trophy fish are safely returned to the water.

A specifically designed catch and release program should generally be beneficial to a regional fishery. By utilizing techniques known to be safest based on current research, as well as locally applicable techniques based on observation, an optimized comprehensive catch and release and conservation program can be designed. Fish mortality can be minimized by the use of several mechanical as well as operational mechanisms. Coupled with a concerted effort to minimize environmental impact from all other aspects of sport fishery operation, it can be ensured that the area's environmental and aquatic resources are carefully protected and remain unaffected by fishing activity. Specific mechanical and operational optimized catch and release fishing techniques suitable for use in Amazon fringe river systems are discussed hereafter.

Control of fishing techniques and equipment - Regulation, whether voluntary or legislative, of fishing techniques and equipment (proactive regulation) has been shown to be more robust scientifically and more effective at reducing fish mortality than simply imposing bag limits or prohibiting fishing in an area (passive regulation) (1). Utilizing fishing techniques that are minimally injurious of the various targeted species amplifies the benefits of catch and release fishing by preventing unnecessary injury, stress and mortality. Anglers committed to catch and release fishing tend to monitor and police a fishery against depredation by other, non-committed, exploitative anglers. Specific techniques that should be included in a proposed control program are as follows.

Mechanical Mechanisms

Prohibition of bait fishing with "J" hooks - The most damaging of all fishing methods has been shown to be bait fishing using "J" hooks, because of the tendency of fish to try to swallow the stationary natural food material. The "J" hook will enter the fish wherever the bait is located at the time of "hookset", an active motion designed to cause the hook point to penetrate the fish. The potential for deep hooking with this type of hook is high; some studies estimate it at up to 35%. Deep hooking has been shown to be the most injurious sport fishing catch mechanism studied. The use of "J" hooks should be prohibited for environmentally sensitive sport fisheries because of its potential for causing higher mortality among released fish.

Conversely, the use of circle hooks in the same circumstances demonstrates the lowest mortality rates of any catch mechanism, typically less than 1%. It is therefore clearly evident that bait fishing with a non-offset circle hook is a desirable and recommended fishing technique for this fishery, especially for catfish and pirapitinga. The use of this type of hook significantly lowers mortality by preventing deep hooking.

Lure fishing only for payara - Rapidly moving artificial lures or flies are aggressively accepted as bait by payara. This precludes the necessity of any form of natural bait fishing for this species. The low mortality associated with artificial lures is a result of their active motion, almost always ensuring that fish are hooked immediately on contact in the lips or jaws thereby avoiding deep hooking injuries. Artificial lures and flies have been shown to be among the safest techniques for successful sport fish release (3) while simultaneously accepted to be among the most sporting and attractive techniques available to touristic fishermen.

Prevention of exhaustion - The use of heavy tackle and strong line reduces the length of time a fish is exercised during a catch, thereby reducing stress and preventing exhaustion. Touristic sport fishmen are routinely provided with appropriate tackle or a recommended tackle list by trip providers and operators. Tackle lists that recommend appropriately sized tackle and strong lines will result in the predominant use of this tackle.

Use of modern hook removal and handling tools - Recent product evolution has resulted in the availability of several fishing tools that significantly lessen the time needed to remove hooks, thereby reducing fish handling and exposure to air. In many instances, fish, especially smaller ones that are less anaerobically capable, can be released without ever being removed from the water. Artificial lures and circle hooks with their superficial hooking characteristics are readily removed using these tools.

The Boga-grip, a specialized device that holds fish by the jaw without using pressure or creating punctures, enables stressless handling of fish. With this device there is no contact with hands or nets, thus protecting the fish's scales, slime coat and delicate fin and gill structures. Using a Boga-grip, a guide can remove hooks from a captured fish while it remains in the water, breathing normally and preventing the exposure of gill lamellae to air. Using a modern shaped-wire hook removal tool, or in the case of a circle hook, a simple long-nosed pliers, hooks can be quickly removed without causing physical injury, excessive struggle or trauma to the fish. Trophy fish, are often photographed while held by the Boga-grip. Air exposure time is minimized and release is facilitated with this tool.

Operational Mechanisms

Fish handling and release techniques - Several simple fish handling and release techniques can be implemented to ensure that the benefits of catch and release are maximized.

Resuscitation and Piranha protection - Highlands rivers on the Amazon basin fringe hold a large populations of black piranha. This species, primarily a carrion or fin and scale eater, is not normally aggressive or predatory toward larger fish. Piranha have, however, been observed in many circumstances to opportunistically attack wounded or exhausted larger fish. It is therefore important that captured fish are released in an area and a manner that ensures their safety from piranha.

Using the Boga-grip tool, tired fish can be readily resuscitated in the water before release to ensure that they are ready to swim normally. Captured fish should be released into sheltered, slack water areas, avoiding additional exercise necessitated by fast current and simultaneously providing protection against predation by piranha.

Boga-grip use - Guides should have Boga-grip tools available at all times when fishing. All fish should be handled with this tool to avoid excessive stress and to minimize injury

Net Prohibition - A conscientiously managed sport fishery can further protect fish by not subjecting them to netting when landed. Most nets, even those designed to be minimally injurious, are potential sources of damage and stress to captured fish. Simply avoiding the use of nets altogether totally eliminates any damage potential. The Boga-grip fish handling tool is a safer and non-injurious alternative to nets.

Harvesting of inadvertently wounded fish - Even the most carefully implemented catch and release program can inadvertently result in some low levels of mortality. Requiring the retention of mortally wounded fish for use as food ensures that no healthy fish are otherwise sacrificed. This practice promotes careful handling by guides and anglers, since the return of an inadvertently killed fish to camp is visible to a group committed to catch and release fishing. Sport fishermen tend to be a self-policing peer group, intent on fishery protection.

Break-off prevention - Although most species of fish are able to rapidly remove superficially hooked artificial lures in the event of a slack or broken line, it is clearly safer to ensure that this does not become necessary. The use of heavy braided line has become accepted by sport fishermen in recognition of its ability to minimize exhaustion in captured fish. A secondary benefit of heavy line is that it is far less likely to break while a fish is hooked, ensuring that anglers are able to positively and rapidly remove hooks and lures before a fish is released. This obviates the need for a fish to expend energy in self-removal and eliminates the risk of mortality due to a physical obstruction or feeding impediment.

Protection of Spawning Fish - Highlands fisheries on the Amazon basin fringe can probably support an economically productive touristic sport fishery during their entire dry season, probably extending throughout half the year. However, it is recommended that the season be constrained to a period of 12 weeks following the spawn of major target species, to be certain that no reproductive impact occurs. On a northern system such as we explored, the angling period would be recommended for January, February and March, the first quarter of the year. During the exploratory trips, which occurred during this period, when all observations were made, no targeted species were encountered in reproductive condition, with mature reproductive organs, or with spawning-ready eggs or sperm present. It appears that, during this period, all targeted species had either already spawned or were not yet ready to spawn.

In other highlands payara fisheries, including the Rio Paragua and the Rio Caura in Venezuela, local residents have observed that payara spawn immediately after the onset of low water. During our explorations, payara were carefully examined for signs of spawning activity during the first two expeditions, both occurring during the first quarter of the year. No spawning activity, eggs, or sperm were observed. No fish with mature gonads were observed. Although the exact spawning period is not known for this fishery, it can be extrapolated that, as in other waters in the region holding this species of payara, Hydrolicus armatus, spawning occurs earlier in the low water period, probably in late October or November. Further research is clearly justified to learn more about this valuable gamefish. An active no-kill sportfishery, in addition to affording protection to the region's aquatic resources, can help elucidate further life-cycle information about the payara and other species by permitting observation, collecting data and hosting scientific researchers.

Pirapitinga (Piaractus brachypomus), do not spawn in the upper reaches of highlands rivers. Because of their commercial value, the behavior and habits of these fish have been studied in detail for many years. It is has been observed that spawning members of Colossoma and Piaractus species migrate in large schools from their native, small, headwaters rivers to their favored spawning areas, typically in rivers where large, slow, turbid waters are present (such as the Rio Madeira, Rio Branco and Rio Solimoes), when the tributaries drain (4). Adult pirapitinga and their close relative, tambaqui are heavily exploited by commercial fishermen during their spawning and dispersal migrations, which occur outside of headwaters regions (5). Fish that were examined during our previous expeditions in the first quarter of the year showed no signs of spawning activity, eggs or sperm. Although the exact spawning waters are not known for this region, it is expected that they will be found in grassy levees on the lower outlet river that flood as the rivers rise, where adequate food supplies for fry can be found during all seasons. It is theorized that alevins later return to the upper tributaries as they begin to mature.

Jau, (Zungaro zungaro), like several others of the large Pimelodid catfish species are observed to migrate during low water periods in the Rio Madeira system. It is not known if these observed migrations (primarily upstream) are for the purpose of feeding, spawning, or both. Jau are netted in large numbers there during these migrations and have been observed and captured following migrating baitfish schools. Examined specimens were found to routinely contain baitfish remnants in their stomachs (4). Some specimens contained ripe gonads while others did not. Available literature does not describe Jau reproductive habits in the Rio Branco. 

Interpretation of data - Utilizing optimized catch and release techniques and methods as discussed, it is estimated that a released fish mortality rate of less than 2 percent can be achieved for sport fishing on highlands river in the Amazon fringe regions. This estimate is considered to be conservatively high. It is based on the average fish mortality values from scientific studies and then modified to account for the use of optimized techniques. This estimate is based on an analysis of research that compared the variable effects of fishing tackle and techniques in determining fish mortality. See the related paper "Catch and Release Fishing Effectiveness and Mortality".

Minimization of environmental impact

Under a well designed catch and release program, sport fishing, when viewed alone, causes minimal environmental impact. When coupled with the positive effects of the added policing of a fishery by sport fishermen and the protective attitude of local residents who receive economic benefit from sport fishing, implementation of this type of program can be positively environmentally beneficial. It has been consistently demonstrated that the measured net effect of introducing a sport fishing program, improves fish population and size and environmental conditions in a region previously detrimentally affected by the 100% mortality of meat hunting, poaching and commercial fishing.

To further ensure minimal environmental impact, sport fishing operators should attempt to avoid any potential negative peripheral effects that may be inadvertently caused by the support activities associated with touristic sport fishing. Just as specific tackle and techniques can affect the degree of environmental impact of catch and release activity, careful attention to detail can also minimize the environmental impact of the presence of sport fishermen. Several areas of consideration deserve attention.

Lodging - Tourist sport fishermen require lodging during their fishing activities. Any camp or facility used for such lodging should be implemented so as to result in minimal environmental impact. A removable camp that is present only during the actual fishing activity could be used, in an area that does not require cutting or clearing of existing flora. Safari style tents or temporary aluminum and vinyl bungalows that can be delivered in a totally disassembled condition, assembled in a carefully selected area during use and then disassembled and removed when activity is completed would be suitable.

Camp operation - Camps should be operated utilizing techniques that minimally affect the environment. Non-phosphate soaps and detergents should be used. Bathrooms equipped with waste retention devices or septic systems should be used, with disposal restricted to well-drained underground sites. Waste should never be released directly into the water. All fuels used for cooking or other camp equipment must be contained during use and removed with the camp. All litter must be carefully stored and completely removed from the area with the camp or accommodation. A well-run operation creates minimal environmental effect and leaves no permanent trace of its presence after removal.

Boats and equipment - All fueled devices should be selected with consideration of their potential environmental impact. It is recommended that motors be restricted to the minimal size and the cleanest type available for the purpose intended. Boats should be small and light, allowing the use of small motors. Outboard motors that are used for fishing or traversing difficult or fast water should be small in size - 15 hp is recommended. Outboard motors used for transport or camp implementation should be as small as possible (less than 30 hp is recommended) and should use 4-stroke technology if applicable. Generators should be clean-running and as small as possible for the application. If possible, refrigerators or freezers should run on propane gas. Well-considered equipment selection can be a significant factor in minimizing a camp's environmental impact.

Environmental Non-interference - Anglers and staff must be instructed to avoid interference with native wildlife and plants. Interactions should be restricted to photography and observation from a distance. Anglers and staff should be aware of the uniqueness of their environment and its research potential. A sport fishing operation should restrict its activities to fishing only.

Staff and angler training - Camp staff and visiting anglers must be trained in catch and release techniques to ensure minimal fish mortality and the proper performance of the program implemented. In addition, camp rules and operating procedures should be established so that staff and anglers will know how to comply with the steps taken to ensure minimal environmental impact of the fishing support operation. Finally, all staff must be trained in the use of boat equipment, while both staff and visitors must be aware of, and comply with, rules to ensure water safety.

Consideration of the Effects of Sport Fishing in Amazon Highlands Fisheries

Michael Goulding, a recognized expert on the fisheries of the Amazon, has commented that, "The sport fishing potential of the Amazon is quite high from an environmental point of view". Although the environmental and economic benefits of sport fishing in the Amazon have become more visible and increased sharply in value during the last two decades, Goulding commented that the infrastructure and organization necessary to properly develop and regulate this resource are lacking in Amazonian regions. Goulding summarizes that the prospects for enhancing economic viability and long-term sustainability of the fish resources of the Amazon have been complicated by over-exploitation by commercial fishing and under-exploitation of minimally impacting sport fishing opportunities (5).

Given the potential benefits, it is suggested that catch and release sport fishing program be introduced on accessible highlands rivers to assist in regional preservation. Specific issues related to the implementation of such programs are discussed hereafter.

Benefits of controlled access and exclusivity - In order to provide the organization, infrastructure and support services necessary to bring touristic sport fishermen into a region, it is necessary for potential operators to make a significant investment in equipment, logistics and staff. This can only be justified as an acceptable investment if an operator is able to recover this investment over a reasonable period of time in the fishery. Additionally, proper control and regulation of catch and release programs and minimally impacting operations can only be ensured if a single entity is responsible for their implementation and results. By providing operators with exclusive sport fishing access to a region, in return for the investment in money, time and responsibility necessary, it can be ensured that the investing enterprise remains self-sustaining, that the sought after regional economic benefits are obtained and that the necessary environmental protections are provided. It is therefore recommended that a single enterprise be granted exclusive rights to a particular fishery, as has successfully been demonstrated in many peacock bass fisheries throughout Amazonia.

A further benefit of such a structure would be to provide a more attractive destination for sport fishermen, free of unsightly crowds and uncontrolled fishing competition. If anglers deem a destination to be esthetically or experientially unattractive, they will not spend the significant funds necessary to fish there and the potential fishery will languish. Excessive numbers of anglers in a region will rapidly create a touristically unattractive destination.

Policing of region and secondary protection - The presence of a sport fishing operation and the accompanying movement and visibility of boats and anglers also provides the benefit of additional protection of the region against uncontrolled harvest or poaching. The knowledge of the presence of controlled sport fishing tends to discourage entry by poachers. The sport fishing anglers and guides will effectively be patrolling the region, able to see and report any illegal entry or activities. The addition of these factors will effectively increase the existing "fiscalizacão" or policing, of accessible highlands regions.

Fishery improvement under sustainable harvest techniques - Further protective benefits for the fishery will occur when local residents are able to perceive the long term value of economic benefits accruing to the region as a result of sport fishing, as compared to the non-beneficial impact of poaching and illegal harvest. In some regions in Amazonia, local residents in protected sport fisheries have become effective secondary sources of environmental protection. In many regions, even the short-term benefit of capturing a fish of the targeted species for the table, has given way to the voluntary selection of a less potentially valuable species. There is excellent potential for successful sustainable harvest fisheries in Amazon fringe areas. Hilborne, et al, in their study of sustainable harvest observe that small scale community commons or local ownership have proven to be the most successful institutions for maintaining sustainable harvest conditions (6).

Tagging, scientific research and reproduction studies - The Amazon fringe's aquatic fauna should be studied in greater detail. In addition to the small-scale benefits to the development of a local sport fishery, improved knowledge and understanding of the region's fish will lead to a much wider ranging benefit to the local area and the Amazon as a whole. Understanding of the migratory and developmental aspects of these fish can provide knowledge that will help evolve better control of commercial fishing activities, providing long term benefits to overall harvest while maintaining the resource for the future benefit of all Amazonians. Sport fishing operations will also benefit from increased knowledge of the aquatic resource. A fishing operation should host, assist and share information with visiting scientists.

Economic Impact

Projections - A touristic sport fishing program can bring a variety of direct and indirect economic benefits to the local area, the region and the country as a whole. On a local level, a sportfishing operation will require food, supplies and materials that can be purchased from local sources. Local residents will be hired as staff and guides. Local services will be hired to provide transportation, lodging and other logistical and support services.

On a regional level, tourists entering and traveling through the region will purchase souvenirs, food and other travel related services. On a countrywide level, tourists will fly via international carriers servicing national airports and many will continue to travel elsewhere in the country, distributing economic benefits in other tourist locales.

A fishing season of up to 12 weeks duration can bring almost 100 tourists into a region. The typical visitor will spend from $5000 to $10,000 USD inclusively on all aspects of a trip. This can generate a potential total of more than $500,000 dollars of direct new funds entering the region and the host country. The bulk of these travel expenditures will remain in the region as direct economic benefits. Further indirect benefits in economic activity occurring as a result of this influx can potentially expand this impact to more than two times the direct amount, as has been documented to occur in the United States (7). Thus, there is the potential for over $1,000,000 (U.S. dollars) worth of total economic activity to result from the implementation of each localized environmentally beneficial catch and release sport fishery. The Amazon has thousands of such fisheries.


All practical, experiential, economic and scientific evidence points to the high degree of effectiveness of a carefully designed catch and release program as an environmental protection tool in Amazon fringe regions. The attendant low fish mortality rates ensure minimal environmental impact. The increase in local awareness and the improved policing of the area afford a mechanism to reduce or eliminate pre-existing negatively impacting activities, such as poaching. Increased opportunities for scientific study afford the potential for discovery of additional knowledge useful in further protection of the aquatic resources. Significant economic benefits are projected to accrue to a region as a result of implementation of a sustainable harvest touristic sport fishery. There are no known negative impacts.


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  2. Deegen F. Doc's perspective on catch and release fishing. Datasync Internet Services Inc [] Accessed 2003 Aug 2.
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  4. Goulding M. The fishes and the forest: Explorations in Amazonian natural history. California: University of California Press; 1980. 280p.
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Reinert TR and Winter KA. Sustainability of harvested pacu (Colossoma macropomum) populations in the Northeastern Bolivian Amazon. Conservation Biology 2002;16(5):1344-1351.

Arapaima. Iwokrama [] Accessed 2003 Aug 4.

Milliken W and Ratter J, editors. Maraca: The Biodiversity and environment of an Amazonian Rainforest. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd; 1998. 508p.

Smith NJH. The Amazon River Forest: A natural history of plants, animals, and people. New York: Oxford University Press; 1999. 208p.

Val AL and Almeida-Val VMF. Fishes of the Amazon and their environment: Phsiological and biochemical aspect. Germany: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg; 1995. 224p.

Smith NJH. Man, fishes, and the Amazon. New York: Columbia Univ. Press; 1981. 180p.