Cardinal tetras, the original jewel of the Rio Negro
In the mid-1950's, as aquarists in the US and Europe were being introduced to a growing array of tropical fish from far-off places, the cardinal tetra arrived on the scene and proceeded to steal the show. Overwhelming demand for this colorful fish created the aquarium fishery on Brazil's Rio Negro. But despite its enduring appeal as an aquarium fish, the modern Rio Negro fishery is about much more than cardinals.
Over 250 species of aquarium fish are exported annually from Manaus, and many new and unique species continue to make their way into the trade each year. From old favorites like the Marble Hatchet and the Bleeding Heart Tetra to new gems like the Tucano Tetra, the Rio Negro is home to an incredible diversity of aquarium species .
The aquarium fishery in Brazil's Rio Negro is one of the best-studied on the planet, with most experts agreeing that collection in the region is largely sustainable. Fishing is generally community-based, and offers a rare opportunity for impoverished people in rural Amazonia to earn an income. Almost all collection occurs in the municipalities of Barcelos and Santa Isabel in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, which have a combined population of about 50,000. In both municipalities, a large proportion of cash incomes are derived from the collection, transport, or sale of ornamental fish. In the most recent comprehensive study of the region, over 1,000 families were estimated to be involved in aquarium fish collection in Barcelos alone (Prang 2003). It has become so central to the economy and culture of the region that the city of Barcelos hosts an elaborate festival dedicated to ornamental fish each year.
In recent years, external forces like reduced demand and intense competition from other exporting countries have made the future of the Rio Negro aquarium fishery uncertain. If fishermen and women can no longer rely on collecting aquarium fish for their livelihoods, they will likely be forced to turn to alternatives (often environmentally destructive) to provide for themselves and their families. In addition, the powerful environmental stewardship of the fishers-who realize a reliable annual harvest depends on keeping the rivers and forests in pristine condition-will likely be lost forever.
To help keep this environmentally beneficial fishery viable, Segrest Farms is pleased to partner with Project Piaba to promote and distribute wild Rio Negro fish. We are excited to make these beautiful and sustainably sourced fish available to retailers and aquarists throughout the US
Want to help support the fishery and stock your aquarium with the unique fish species of the Rio Negro? Check out our store locator to find a retailer near you that regularly carries Segrest Farms fish.