- Issue: Spring 2021
THE AMAZON :: PERU
Paiche were once abundant in the rivers of the Peruvian Amazon. Fishers stood in shallow canoes, aiming sharpened spears just ahead of where bubbles appeared on the surface of the river. A single spear piercing a fish’s gray and pink scales would secure enough meat in one blow to feed 10 families—a paiche could weigh 35 to 40 lb. But as demand for the meat grew beyond Indigenous communities, new fishers flooded into their territories. Rather than taking a single paiche, these fishers used nets, dynamite, and poison to capture as many fish as they could, quickly devastating wild populations.
The original inhabitants adapted. A few began to raise paiche in floating cages set in the fish’s natural habitat, and eventually a fishing association was formed. In 2018, WWF helped create an initiative that provides technical support to the floating fish farms as well as to other local conservation and sustainable development efforts. Paiche farming applies Indigenous knowledge to the conservation of the fish populations. It also provides a way for Indigenous communities to expand their local economies through the sale of meat and value-added products such as jerky and smoked fish.