Individual study: Aquarium fisheries as a non-timber forest product: experiences from conservation through community development in North Rupununi District, Guyana
Bicknell J. & Chin C. (2007) Aquarium fisheries as a non-timber forest product: experiences from conservation through community development in North Rupununi District, Guyana. Conservation Evidence, 4, 94-98
Deforestation is one of the major global conservation issues. Solutions are being sought to tackle this ongoing forest loss, including establishment of initiatives to provide new sources of income for local communities that promote the sustainable use of forests in the interest of biodiversity conservation. One such project 'Iwokrama', demonstrates how tropical forests and associated habitats can be sustainably used. In the central Guyana wetlands of the Rupununi, illegal fishing of arapaima Arapaima gigas, had led to a huge reduction in its numbers. Iwokrama responded by initiating the Arapaima Management Plan in 2002. This highlighted the need for another source of local income from fisheries, and a business that undertakes sustainable-harvest of fish for the aquarium trade was developed. Harvesting of a few selected fish species is carried-out by members of the local community who are paid a daily wage. Fishing methods target individual species to avoid incidental by-catch. Four species are primarily caught as they are numerous in the Rupununi and are of high trade value. To ensure ecological and economical sustainability, catch per unit effort is monitored; where this begins to drop for any given species, harvesting is suspended and the population is allowed to recover before harvesting resumes. The project has developed into a self-sustaining business, managed by the community themselves. During 2005, the project reached financial sustainability with current profits of over US$3,000 feeding back into local community initiatives.