Invasion of the Jauaperi
March 24 2010
Where have our fish gone? Xixuaú may be 500km from Manaus, far from shops, roads or restaurants, but the kids are asking their parents whether the largest fish of the Rio Jauaperi actually exist outside their colouring books.
After the three year moratorium on commercial fishing expired last year, all the communities of the Jauaperi hoped the judge's decree banning fishing would protect them from commercial fishing: it hasn't worked. Commercial fishing boats have returned, their huge trawler nets scraping everything out of the river: turtles, dolphins, snakes, everything. Whatever can't be sold is thrown back, dead. The valuable fish are stored on ice in the ship's hold, while the boat trawls further into the heart of the Amazon.
The people of the Jauaperi are ribeirinhos: traditional river-dwellers with an amazing, practically amphibious relationship with water. Like their indigenous ancestors, they are completely dependent on the rainforest and its rivers. For them, taking the canoe out to a favoured fishing spot with a hook and line or spear is equivalent to nipping into Starbucks for a coffee.
The impact of such predatory overfishing on local people is massive, as they are dependent on fish to feed their families. Not only that, but lives are directly at risk, as volunteer environment agents like Xixuau's own Elinho face frequent death threats. The invasions have escalated so badly that the neighbouring Waimiri-Atroari indigenous people have come down river in their boats, confronting the invaders. One of the community leaders of Itaquera, Rozan Dias da Silva, has just returned from Manaus to find someone attempted to burn down his house, with his family inside. The situation has even drawn in journalists from São Paulo, who have been shown around by three NGOs (including WWF-Brazil), allies and supporters of the Jauaperi communities.