Arapaima Rescue Mission in Rewa River, North Rupununi, Region 9. Feb 6, 2016

Drought conditions continue to impact communities in Region 9, wells are drying and forest and savannah fires are burning out of control. Community members from Rewa, a riverine community in the North Rupununi, reported that drought conditions are also threatening arapaima. Arapaima are the largest scaled fresh water fish in the world and Guyana’s rivers are a last stronghold for these endangered fish. Arapaima can grow over 8 feet long and weigh in over 400 lbs, and unlike other fish, they come to the surface to breathe air otherwise they drown.

Dry Pond

Since 2000, North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) has worked with communities to develop the Arapaima Management Plan to outline how communities will address the population of this fish. The NRDDB plan was passed by the Government of Guyana, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Fisheries, in 2002 and the communities have worked along with governing agencies to manage this fishery.

This year’s El Nino conditions are drying ponds that usually hold water over the dry season and full grown arapaima are stranded.

In the Rupununi, water levels are so low that the rescue team had to push and drag boats over a day and a half to reach the stranded arapaima. Members of the rescue team came from Rupertee and Rewa, an Iwokrama ranger, an NRDDB executive and 5 students from the Bina Hill. Fuel, rations, boats and engines were contributed by partners including the NRDDB, Iwokrama, Dr. Lesley De Souza, Samantha James, Rewa Eco Lodge and families of team members involved.

Lifting Arapaima

The team successfully removed 25 adult fish, with a few clocking in over 350 lbs, from the dry pond to the river. Ranger Peters reported that a seine was used to catch the fish which were then placed in a canoe and dragged though the dry pond and the forest to the Rewa River. He stated that all were tagged so they could be identified and tracked later on. This is part of research being conducted by Dr. Lesley De Souza who is working along with Rewa Eco Lodge to study arapaima and their behaviour. This research will also provide information on how best Rewa can sustainably conduct sports fishing for arapaima without detriment to the fish.

The members of the team are volunteering their time and the hard work and dedication is to be commended. They are: Rudolph Edwards, Rovin Alvin, Shun Alvin, Adrian Mack, Lakeram Haynes, Courtney Peters, Zachary Paul, Franklin Paul, Winston Edwards, Wycliff Alvin, Jonah Paul, Dilly Alvin, Lloyd Edwards, Gamon Edwards, Wesley Edwards, Morris Edwards, Hilbert King, Lorindo Honorio, Nelson Mack, Danny Thomas, Alex Honorio, Demas Honorio, Stephanu Honrio and Patrick Honorio. 5 students from the Bina Hill Institute are also part of the rescue operation and Laura Honorio, Edna Mack and Pearl Alvin are volunteering their time and cooking for the team.

NRDDB exec, Lakeram Haynes, reported that the team will be moving down river today and hope to move at least another dozen fish from 2 or 3 more ponds in the Rewa River.

In November last year, 27 arapaima were moved from a drying pond in the Essequibo River. This was done by Iwokrama Rangers and Fair View Villagers with the expertise of Stephanu Honorio, a Rewa Villager who has worked with Dr. De Souza on arapaima in Rewa.

We would like to recognize local knowledge and contributions of all community members. This is a great example of community conservation and the NRDDB would like to recognize the members of the team as well as Rewa Village, Rewa Eco Lodge, Iwokrama, Dr. De Souza and the Environmental Protection Agency.