Brazil has fishing potential as few countries in the world because of the quantity of both fresh and sea waters, and part of this potential are the reservoirs of hydroelectric power plants such as Itaipu. United Nations’ Food and Agriculture (FAO) organization recognizes this potential, and maintains that Brazil has conditions of becoming one of the largest fish producers in the world in a few decades.
The creation of the President’s Special Department for Aquaculture and Fishing (Seap) by president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva soon in the beginning of his first mandate showed the importance that the segment would come to have in his government--a position that would be even more reinforced with the creation in August of 2008 of the Ministry of Fishing and Aquaculture. And Itaipu, springing from the innovation in its institutional mission, incorporated in Cultivating Good Water the public politics focused on this sector and has become a national reference in its implementation.
Today there are more than fishermen between Foz do Iguaçu and Guaíra. To these numbers can be added 130 families with more of 600 Indians along with land reform settlements, small riverside villages, and amateur fishermen. Therefore, those that depend on the reservoir for obtaining their family living have been gradually penalized with the reduction of the volume fished and consequently a reduction in income.
Recent studies show that for 94% of the small-scale fishermen the monthly income is lower than two minimum salaries. Consequently, most of those fishermen are lacking in basic resources such as housing, the purchase and maintenance of fishing equipment and boats, sanitary conditions, and a place to sell their produce. Usually they deliver their catch to middlemen with limited profits.
It is within this context that Itaipu saw the need to create the project More Fish in Our Waters, which not only strengthens the fishing sector, but also encourages aquaculture as a sustainable means of income using a tank-net system. The initiative also intends to increase consumption. Despite Brazil’s great potential in this sector, it is still an importer of fish and even still, Brazil eats very little fish: 15 lbs/year, which is well below the world average of 33 lbs/year. That is why the fishing industry policy in Lula’s Government and for Itaipu pushes for not only “more fish in our waters” but also “more fish on our tables”.
That is how the Project arose of social inclusion, support, and valuing of the fisherman’s role. With this comes an attempt to improve the quality of life of the fishermen, squatters, small farmers, and Indian communities, streamline the reservoir fishing process, increase fish production, promote the sustainable development of aquaculture and fish farming in the BP3, produce food with a high nutrition value, as well as monitor and conserve biodiversity.
A management committee made up of the main entities established a forum whereby the demands are discussed in a democratic and participatory way. On this committee are fishermen colonies and associations, Emater (Brazilian Entity for Technical Assistance and Rural Extension), IAP (Environmental Institute of Paraná), Ibama (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), Ministry of Fishing and Aquaculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Itaipu, universities, unions, and city administrations. Most of the actions are carried out as shared through partnerships and agreements.
A partnership with what once was the President’s Special Department for Aquaculture and Fishing and today is a Ministry has given the fishermen greater autonomy in the development of growing fish in tank-nets, which has resulted in providing sets of a computer with a printer and a thermal box trailer for transporting live fish—one for each one of the seven fishing colonies. A training program was developed for more than 650 fishermen, their wives, and children in these colonies and more than 2,000 booklets entitled “Good Practices in Aquaculture” were distributed.
In order to protect the margins, Itaipu formed a permanent preservation strip around the reservoir. It was necessary to receive a license from Ibama to make this strip compatible with the fishing activity. Sixty-three fishing points were licensed between Foz do Iguaçu and Guaíra, which included more than 700 fishermen.
During a pilot phase, Itaipu made available to the fishing colonies more than 500 tank-nets, fries, and technical orientation. Initially around 200 fishermen participated of which many have grown to purchasing more tanks and become autonomous in their work.
A partnership between Itaipu, the fishing colonies, and the Environmental Aquaculture & Fishing Center at IAP resulted in the production of more than 50,000 fingerlings of Pacu to be put in the net-tanks. This production met the needs of fishermen, squatters, and the Indian village of Ocoy. Funai (National Indian Foundation) made a request in the name of the Indian community and 40 tank-nets were installed in that village and today it produces 12 tons of fish every year used to improve their nutrition quality with autonomy in production.
Fifteen fishing points with a collective use module were set up so that fishermen could have better hygiene conditions while working with the fish. The city administrations participated by installing city water and electric energy reached them too through the Federal Government’s program Light for Everyone.
The Pacu is the fish species grown by the fish farmers, but others are being researched and tested to be produced. Pacu is a very tasty fish, but it has a lot of bones in it. To try to solve this problem in order to favor consumption, Itaipu purchased a machine capable of separating the bones from the meat, which can process 1000 pounds of fish an hour.