The state of Rondônia has a population of around 1.4 million inhabitants, over 60% of whom live in cities. The livelihood of many of the state’s residents depend on migrant labor and on the fishing industry; however, over-fishing has compromised populations of the most valued fish off the coast of Rondônia, leading to a crisis in incomes for fishermen throughout the state. For example, the tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum), a favorite species, had almost disappeared as a typical regional dish; it can be served only at specific times of the year, according to environmental regulations.
The Demonstration Unit for Farming Tambaqui in Net Pens, in Candeias de Jamari, was set up within the town to establish the technical infrastructure for production, study and research on farming fish in net pens to provide food and reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks. 25 net pens were built with a total capacity for 51,000 kilograms of fish. The Project is a partnership between state and municipal government, the Z-6 Fisherman’s Colony of Candeias and Electronorte, Rondônia’s energy provider.
Specialized technicians have accompanied the whole process of planning and executing these net pens, from defining the location to choosing the specific technology to be used, in addition to helping obtain the necessary authorization from federal organizations such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Supply, the Brazilian Navy and IBAMA, the environmental control agency.
After initial training for the fishermen in 1998, the Project soon achieved results, opening space for phase two, where technical support was given for community projects on an economical and commercial scale. During this phase, the 25 associated fishermen and their families built two floating houses on plastic barrels filled with oxygen to support 28 net pens with a total area of 632 square meters. Once these tanks were in place, the third phase began. This stage involved an exchange of knowledge in practical activity, carrying out farming activities as a community with technical support. During this phase, work was organized into permanent 48-hour shifts by three fishermen at a time. This last phase, lasting 13 months, marked the end of the training period, when the fishermen received professional diplomas.
A fourth phase began in November 2004 and ended in January 2005: a fishing technology course, where fishermen, their wives and children learnt about preserving the fish product and about the regional tambaqui based cuisine. At the same time, the community built the infra-structure for processing produce: brining and smoking equipment, gutting tables, drying facilities, hydraulic, sanitation and electrical equipment. The community also built a fish market.
The fishermen and their families use a permanent shift system to divide work, which besides watching over the pens includes cleaning and maintenance of the floating structure, feeding, tank hygiene, care of the protective netting to avoid wasting feed, aand other activities. The pilot group is now studying another species, the jatuarana (Brycon cephalus). The Project aims to implement jatuarana farms throughout the state.
Additional benefits include more food and more jobs for the municipality and the revival of businesses such as bars and restaurants specializing in typical Rondônia fish-based cuisine.
By organizing the community and offering adequate technical support, the state of Rondônia is introducing new fishing techniques to revive the sector.
The new approach to fishing, with net pen fish farms, is bringing fish back into the diet of the local population besides generating jobs and income.
After an initial government investment in infrastructure and training, the project aims at community self-sufficiency.