The social and economic uncertainties caused by the new Coronavirus, the biggest pandemic of the 21st century, would be enough to mark the current year as one of the most unexpected and turbulent of the decade. However, this year also occurred in the Amazon River basin the biggest flood in history, which, for the world of sport fishing ecotourism, generates insecurity and other uncertainties.
From the business point of view, especially for those who make a living from fishing tourism, the very high water level causes great losses, such as the difficulty in finding good fish in operations. The example is given in fishing excursions that schedule their packages thinking about the level at which the rivers are usually “in the box”, that is, when the river has a well-defined bank. This fact makes the fish leave the flooded forest environment to inhabit only the river bed, which facilitates the capture of good specimens.
However, with the river very full, the fish enter the forest because of the food supply. From the açaí berry that falls into the water, isolated insects to small mammals attract the entire food chain into the forest and this fact makes it impossible for sport fishermen to reach these fish by river.
A difficult fishery brings negative publicity to the hotel or operation as it is natural for a fishing group to want to return to the place where they were most successful in fishing. Sport fishermen, whether first-time or recurring, are not always concerned with knowing the reasons for not having found good specimens, or even finding specimens very close to structures, which makes boarding difficult or completely impossible.
The flood also brings losses of material orders. As a reference, the basin belonging to the Municipality of Autazes - AM, which is directly influenced by the level of the Rio Negro/Amazonas. In September 2021, the jungle hotel “CLUBE DA PESCA AMAZON JUMA” witnessed the river water invading a good part of its structure, which, despite being built on stilts, had its restaurant, kitchen and most of the bungalows flooded. . Wood that had never been exposed to water was submerged for more than 60 days, causing the boards to swell and crack. Adding this to the 2020 lockdowns due to the pandemic, it is possible to imagine how much the entrepreneurs and professionals dependent on the branch felt.
In data extracted from the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (Inpa), it appears that the three largest floods ever recorded in the Port of Manaus were respectively in 2009, with 29.77 meters, in 2012, with 29.97 meters and finally in 2021, with 30.2 meters. The astonishing fact is that they took place in the last 12 years. There were, in total, seven extreme floods (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021), classified as extreme because they exceeded the levels considered emergency by the Civil Defense in the last 10 years. Analyzing the history, it is possible to at least assume what will happen in the coming years: the water level will continue to break records.
It is easy to get into the specifics of the causes that can be easily pinpointed: El Niño, the greenhouse effect, a hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the polar ice caps, wild fires and the consequent deforestation.
However, it is still possible to extract from all this true tragedy some positive points, both for sport fishermen and for businessmen and other professionals linked to sport fishing tourism.
The fishing pressure certainly in this pandemic year was unquestionably reduced, a fact that allowed the most sought after fish such as tucunaré-açu, arowana and pirarucu to have a real relief in their breeding. The large matrices were also relatively more protected, because with the high water level the entire food chain is protected.
Even with the historic flood, the union of the basins occurred, causing regional species to end up migrating from one region to another, bringing new fishing options. This information was obtained firsthand from a businessman born on the Juma River-AM, riverside, who began his career as a fishing guide and today is co-owner of the jungle hotel Clube da Pesca Amazon Juma. “Arapaima was a practically extinct fish in the Juma River and in this year of high water we could notice several sightings. Another fish that was not common here is the Tambaqui. Although, for the most part, they appear in regions of difficult access, in flooded igapós, we had never seen them in at least the last 5 years of the Hotel's existence and today we are able to capture them right in front of the hotel”, says Kaka, co-owner of the hotel. Amazon Juma Fishing Club.
As happened after the historic flood of 2012, the years that followed were marked by abundant fishing, record sizes and a significant increase in fishing operations, great for the development of local economies but bad for fish preservation.
This time, unlike what happened in the past, the consequences of the historic flood will be accompanied by protective legislation that prohibits the slaughter of tucunaré-açu. Autazes was the first municipality to create a protection law that, since 2017, prohibits the slaughter of peacock bass (Cichla temensis). Law 178/2017 prohibited the slaughter of the “ambassador” of Brazilian sport fishing in a permanent protection area that comprises the Juma River, Mutuca River, Rio Preto do Pantaleão, among others.
For the President of Instituto Clube da Pesca.org, an institute for the promotion and development of sport fishing as ecological tourism, “it is up to businessmen, riverside dwellers and all other characters of micro-economies linked to sport fishing in the country to hope that things will improve, as the trend is that the development of sustainable tourism, with the help of protective legislation, will attract more and more travelers and the world economy, despite still in its infancy towards the post-pandemic period, will return to its normality”, says Thiago H Fantini, President of Instituto Clubedapesca.org.
With all the periods of social isolation, quarantine and political uncertainties related to the pandemic period, it is logical to conclude that the market will take a while to heat up. However, the trend of these niches directly affected by the pandemic, such as tourism itself, is to have a significant improvement in the coming years.
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