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Fishermen catch a pirarucu fish in Medio Jurua region, Amazonia State, Brazil. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

Fishermen catch a pirarucu fish in Medio Jurua region, Amazonia State, Brazil. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

Eliane Farias carries pieces of a pirarucu fish. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

Eliane Farias carries pieces of a pirarucu fish. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

A worker washes pirarucu in Carauari, Brazil. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

A worker washes pirarucu in Carauari, Brazil. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

People cook pirarucu at San Raimundo settlement in Carauari, Brazil. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

People cook pirarucu at San Raimundo settlement in Carauari, Brazil. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

A fisherman carries pieces of a pirarucu. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

A fisherman carries pieces of a pirarucu. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

Catching a Big Fish . . . Together

Posted: January 1, 2023

WHAT a fish! Just try picking one up. It’s like hoisting half a horse!

The pirarucu fish weighs up to 440 pounds. That’s way bigger than any of its 2,300 neighbor species in South America’s Amazon River.

Not so long ago, the pirarucu had nearly vanished. Ships swept the lakes with large nets, looking for the giant. But too many people fished too many pirarucu for too many years. The giant fish was nearly extinct.

But now the fish has come back to the lakes of Medio Jurua, Brazil. Why? Because people worked together.

When something needs to change, people often make fresh laws. Many people were fishing illegally in Brazil. In just five years, law keepers caught lawbreaking fishers 1,160 times.

So people made a new rule: You can fish for pirarucu . . . but only once per year, around September. That’s when the lake water is lowest.

Pirarucu is one of the only fish species in the world that comes to the surface to breathe. It pops up with a big splash. Its red tail flails out of the water.

A local fisherman and a researcher in the Mamirarua region noticed this unique trait. They got a bright idea: They decided to count the fish as they surfaced. (Each fish stays underwater no more than 20 minutes.)

Now the fish count happens each year by trained fishermen. Their final number matters. The next year, only three in 10 of those fish are allowed to be caught.

 People now know how many pirarucu live in the lake. They know how many to catch and how many to leave alone. The counting works. The fish population grows.

One local says, “Our pirarucu is so tasty, everybody that eats it falls in love with it and wants more.” Now people can go on eating it for years to come.

Why? People work together and make laws to care for the resources God gives. And that can make a big difference!