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Sustainable management of the arapaima

Current initiative


Ready to go to work. Credit: Máxime Aliaga

Ready to go to work. Credit: Máxime Aliaga

The sustainable management of the arapaima has been practised in recent years in the downstream area of the Pacaya watershed, in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Local communities have been involved in implementing fisheries management programmes for the use and conservation of the species by setting up management groups. The idea is to generate economic benefits for the group members through the sustainable management of natural resources.


Community Organisation of Small-Scale Fishers and Fish Processors (OSPPA) Los Leones


Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the department of Loreto, province of Maynas.

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected Arapaima Arapaima gigas

Products in trade

Live animals, meat, eggs

Overview of the problem

Approximately 92,125 people live in the area of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, generating significant pressure on natural resources. The arapaima is poached for the high value of its meat and traded in local, national and foreign markets. This has caused a fall in natural populations of the species.

Illegal activities are usually carried out by people from outside the area, although poachers sometimes get local people involved by training them to hunt the species. This is mainly due to a lack of alternative income or for cultural reasons. In the area 52% of the population are registered as living in poverty.

The anti-IWT initiative

Under a Fisheries Management Programme, approved by the Regional Directorate of Production for the commercial fishing of the arapaima, local management groups are responsible for the use and conservation of the species. OSSPA Los Leones is one management group set up in the community of Bretaña, in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

Under the programme, activities are designed to: help to reduce illegal hunting of wildlife species, contribute to conservation, enable people to earn an income from legal trade, and empower groups by involving them in the local economy and in the management of the reserve.

The arapaima is managed and caught sustainably by OSPPA Los Leones. With the assistance of NGOs and private companies, the reserve management office provides OSPPA Los Leones with advice and technical support so that they can implement the programme effectively and raise awareness of the importance of sustainable use of natural resources.

Activities include establishing fishing quotas, minimum landing sizes and times of the year when fishing is prohibited. OSPPA Los Leones also carries out monitoring and surveillance of the arapaima.

The strategy

Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour

Non-monetary, in-kind incentives for community intelligence
Raising community awareness about wildlife crime penalties and sanctions
Strengthening and supporting traditional norms and sanctions against IWT

Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship

Legal trade
Policy/regulatory change to enable communities to benefit

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

Build/and or support sense of community ownership or stewardship

Improving education and awareness

Has the initiative made a difference?

The programme has been positive for both local communities and the recovery of the arapaima. The involvement of local people in surveillance and management activities has led to a reduction in incidents of trafficking and illegal hunting. A census carried out by the association found a significant increase in the population of both juvenile and adult arapaima.

The use of the arapaima under the programme is producing economic benefits for the local population, improving the livelihoods of the families in the communities involved. Direct benefits have been achieved for approximately 240 family members, with income generated from the sale of legally caught fish.

Factors for success

Supportive national policy/legislation on sustainable use of natural resources

Long-term donor support that is flexible, adaptive and/or based on realistic time goals

Clear and tangible benefits to local communities from wildlife (These may be financial and/or non-financial)

What doesn’t work and why

An ongoing challenge is to strengthen links with the market to achieve a better price for products, in order support the communities further. 

Political instability and the absence of public policies have made programme implementation more difficult.

Factors that limited or hindered success

Lack of devolved decision-making power so local communities have a voice in creating or co-creating solutions (as part of the initiative)

Ineffective and/or untrustworthy community leaders

Lack of transparent and accountable distribution of benefits to local communities

Organisers, donors and partners


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