The walrus or pirarucu is a giant freshwater fish that lives in the Amazon River Delta. Adults weigh up to 200 kg and need the cooperation of many people to hunt.
During the rainy season in the Amazon, large amounts of water fall from the Andes, causing the forests of Brazil, Guyana and Peru to be flooded for meters. For the people here, now is the right time to go hunting for pirarucu, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world.
To catch fish that weigh more than 200 kg, hunters have to use iron hooks and large parachute lines. There was a case when they caught pirarucu fish weighing up to 300 kg and over 3 meters long. The pirarucu behaves quite like a banana fish, it has air bubbles and will usually have to come to the surface after 20 minutes to get oxygen, and that is an opportunity for hunters.
In the local language, pirarucu means red fish. This is named after their fins, which reflect red light while swimming. This layer of fins acts like armor, very thick and helps them avoid damage when attacked by piranhas.
The sea lionfish is the largest predator in the Amazon River, no other animals catch them to eat, not even crocodiles. The only threat to this species is humans. They mainly eat other fish species, but the juveniles rely on insects and crustaceans for survival.
For the locals, pirarucu is famous for its delicious taste and valuable source of nutrients. Therefore, pirarucu fish were overfished and were once in danger of extinction. Their size is also reduced compared to before. A 2002 study showed that there are only about 800 pirarucu fish left in the wild.
When hung upright, the pirarucu was taller than the average person. Fortunately, this animal easily survives in captivity. The only important thing is to ensure adequate food for them as adults can gain 10 kg per year.
Giant animals that were once threatened with extinction are now widely farmed in the Amazon basin in Brazil. Part of this resurgence is thanks to local chefs, who educate indigenous communities to ensure their survival.
Sea bream has now become a popular dish in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. The local government also helps protect this species by only allowing fishing during the period from July to November every year to avoid the spawning season of the fish. A certain quota is also applied to each locality.
The sustainable pirarucu fishing project has been in operation since 1999. As a result, the number of pirarucu fish is estimated to reach 190,000 in 2018.
Local people are also actively involved in this project because for them, the quality of piracucu fish is superior to other fish species.