Assessing Migration Patterns of the Endangered Arapaima in Guyana: Implications for Conservation

Thursday, September 12, 2013: 11:40 AM
Miller (Statehouse Convention Center)
Lesley de Souza , Conservation and Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL
Arapaima are among the largest freshwater fishes in the world, reaching over 3m and 200kg. They are generally, and specifically in Guyana, at risk due to poaching and impending habitat perturbations such as oil exploration, gold mining, agriculture and logging concessions. The importance of arapaima to local Amerindian communities, ecological function, and a nascent sustainable fly-fishing industry underscore the urgent need to develop and implement a sustainable management plan. These fish make seasonal, lateral migrations from rivers and ponds into flooded forests and savannas, thereby exploiting seasonal habitats for reproduction, maximizing food resources, and providing nutrient pulses to surrounding ecosystems. Yet, we understand very little about these migrations throughout the surrounding floodplains.  We use radio telemetry to investigate migration patterns of arapaima. This technique represents a novel approach allowing us to quantify and qualify the importance of habitats for feeding, and reproduction in both the dry and wet seasons.  Using PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags to mark all captured fish augments our study population for a long-term mark-recapture program. Our population assessment techniques constitute a comprehensive approach to conservation as it establishes baseline population assessments of fish stocks, allows population trends to be monitored more thoroughly, and clarifies where arapaima are found and their relative abundance.