Centro Lianas
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Why native species?

The Amazon region has one of the richest and most biologically diverse fresh-water fish populations in the world and offers an abundance of species for aquaculture. With such resources available, native species are preferable to exotics for many reasons:

1) Native fish are already an part of the local diet and a valued food resource for Amazonian people, so producing them through aquaculture meets an existing demand.

2) In low-tech, extensive fish farming systems, escape of fish into the wild is inevitable. By farming native species, one avoids the negative impacts caused by the release of exotic species into the environment.

3) Native species are well adapted to the zone and are at less risk of disease, so they require less intensive management.

4) By working with native species that they are familiar with and that are locally available, farmers reduce their dependence on outside experts, trainers, or suppliers.

5) With native Amazonian fish, indigenous people are developing knowledge, skills, and a product that is new for the world.

Soco huani, native Amazonian cichlid

Collecting hatchlings produced in a local pond to share with neighbors.

Tupu huani fingerlings

Tupu huani adult

Farming Amazonian Fish

Las Lianas works with indigenous Amazonian communities developing two types of fish farming: growout aquaculture and full-lifecycle aquaculture.

Growout Aquaculture

The simplest form of fish farming is "growout" aquaculture, that is, stocking hatchery-produced fingerlings to be raised, fattened and harvested in family fish ponds. By purchasing young fish from the hatchery, the fish farmer avoides the challenges of getting fish to reproduce and caring for the young in the difficult early larval stages when survival is most at risk.

Las Lianas distributes hatchlings of the omnivorous river fish cachama (Piaractus brachypomus) to allow fish farmers to become comfortable managing their fish and to supplement the full-lifecycle farming of cichlid species described below. Cachama is the native Amazonian fish most used in aquaculture in Ecuador, and for this reason is easily to obtain from hatcheries.

Fish farmers participating in the Indigenous Aquaculture Initiative have had good results working with this species, and the cost of the hatchlings has paid for itself not only in terms of the contribution of these fish to the local diet but also through the fish farming skills participants have developed.

Full Lifecycle Aquaculture

A sustainable fish farming program requires going beyond growout aquaculture to promote the reproduction of native species that can ensure a permanent supply of hatchlings managed by fish farming families themselves.

The best option for low-cost, easy to manage fish reproduction comes from the use of species whose habitat most closely resembles the ponds in which they will be raised. In the Amazon region, this means species that live their entire lives in the flood plain lakes of the rainforest.

Las Lianas and our local partners have been working with a number of species of the cichlid family of fishes that meet these criteria, including fish of the genus Astronotus (such as the aquarium fish "oscar") and the genus Aequidens (known in spanish as "viejas"). These species reproduce easily in captivity without much special handling required, so they provide a good option for creating a permanent, self-sustaining food resource for the long term.

These fish have many other qualities that make them excellent aquaculture species: they are easy to manage, they are adaptable and don't require strict controls of temperature, oxygen levels and so on, and they can thrive on a wide variety of foods. These are similar qualities to those that have led to the promotion of tilapia (from Africa) and carp (from Eurasia) for aquaculture, but unlike these exotic species, the Amazonian cichlids we work with do not create an environmental risk.

Over the years, Las Lianas has provided technical support and funding for fish farmers to collect broodstock of several cichlid species and for community-based research to develop management methods for working with these fish. Four of these species now reproduce regularly in family fish ponds and their offspring are distributed among neighbors and between villages. Additional broodstock continue to be added to the mix to ensure strong genetic diversity and to meet the growing demand for fish.