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Study: Amazon's largest fish is facing extinction

Dalia Ibrahim
Digital Reporter

Sunday, August 31, 2014, 6:00 PM - Heavy fishing and lack of local regulation is causing the largest fish in the Amazon River basin to go extinct, according to a journal published this month titled Aquatic Conservation: Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems.

The behemoth fish species is called “arapaima” — or, in Brazil, “pirarucu" -- can get as long as 10 feet long (3 metres) and weigh up to 440 pounds (180 kilograms). The air-breathing fish are carnivorous, feeding primarily on smaller fish and occasionally birds, according to National Geographic

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According to the study, the arapaima is already extinct in 19 per cent of the communities.

Arapaima gigas captivity

"Arapaima populations were found to be ‘depleted’ in 76% of the fishing communities, ‘overexploited’ in 17%, ‘well-managed’ in 5%, and ‘unfished’ in only 2%," researchers said. "Population densities were zero (i.e. locally extinct) in 19% of the communities."

In the study, research leader and assistant professor of fisheries at Virginia Tech Leandro Castello criticized the Brazilian government's claim that scarcity would drive up the cost of fishing arapaima, helping save the depleted species. 

“If that prediction were true, extinctions induced by fishing would not exist, but that is not what has happened,” pointed out Castello

Researchers say there is still some hope that the fish could avoid full extinction. Although only 27 per cent of the communities surveyed regulate arapaima fishing, the fish are reportedly surviving in those areas. 

Source: Wiley Online Library

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