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The pacamã is a carnivorous fish known by the scientific name of Lophiosilurus alexandri. It is also known as pocomã, pacamão, niquim or linguado do-são-francisco. This species spawns in sandy riverbeds, forming nests, and practices parental care, where, normally, the male guards the eggs and, subsequently, the recently hatched larvae.

This species is native to the São Francisco River, a 2700 km long river with its source in Serra da Canastra, in the state of Minas Gerais. It flows from south to north through Bahia and Pernambuco, where it changes course southeast, flowing into the Atlantic Ocean between Alagoas and Sergipe. This river is historically one of the main fisheries in Brazil, providing fish and meeting market demand in northeast and southeast Brazil. Its waters are an important source of income for many families, as is small-scale artisanal fishing.
The riverside communities along the river, for whom artisanal fishing is the main source of household income, were established and developed on the basis of the native fish of the São Francisco River. Fishermen usually work alone or in pairs. When fishing alone, a hook is always used, and when fishing in pairs a boat is used with a net. Profit-sharing is arranged in various ways, depending largely on each occasion and the rules established by the fishermen.

According to a survey by EMBRAPA (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), there is great commercial interest in pacamã in the São Francisco outback region (including Juazeiro, Bahia and Petrolina, Pernambuco) with demand for pacamã meat among over 15% of consumers, making the species more vulnerable, if consumed in an uncontrolled manner. In Remanso, artisanal fishermen’s groups include about 142 artisanal fishing families, with 32 families being directly involved in the action group to improve fishing.
In the past, fishing powered the economy of riverside towns and cities in the São Francisco region in Bahia, but with the degradation of the environment, this activity is losing ground every day, and it is also competing with Cichla and tilapia farming. Other factors potentially leading to extinction of the species in the region: The construction of large dams along the São Francisco River, such as the Três Marias dam in Minas Gerais and Sobradinho dam in Bahia, has hindered the reproductive migration of the fish and markedly restricted the filling of reservoirs downstream, reducing the fill level of adjoining lakes, which serve as nurseries for dozens of these species.

As a result, there has been a major decline in fish stocks, as well as a reduction in the biodiversity of fish species in the hydrographic basin, leading some species, such as the pacamã, to almost disappear. Predatory fishing, inappropriate land use and habitat destruction have contributed, individually or together with dams, to the decline in the ichthyofauna of the São Francisco River, with measures to revive, preserve and manage the river’s native species also weak.

According to artisanal fishermen, other threats to the native fish of the São Francisco River are: the lack of monitoring of illegal fishing during the fish’s reproduction period; the lack of control of fishing carried out by other states in the north-east; the lack of compliance with the number of nets deployed for fishing; and the lack of awareness about preservation of local biodiversity, both among fishermen and municipal authorities.

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Fish, sea food and fish products

Arca del GustoThe traditional products, local breeds, and know-how collected by the Ark of Taste belong to the communities that have preserved them over time. They have been shared and described here thanks to the efforts of the network that Slow Food has developed around the world, with the objective of preserving them and raising awareness. The text from these descriptions may be used, without modifications and citing the source, for non-commercial purposes in line with the Slow Food philosophy.