Use of the boto (inia geoffrensis) as bait in fisheries in the central amazon.

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Use of the boto (Inia geoffrensis) as bait in fisheries in the Central Amazon Vera M. F da Silva1, A. R. Martin2 and Nívia A. S. do Carmo1

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia, Manaus, AM, Brazil; 2 University of Dundee,

Scotland. Mythological status had ensured protection for the boto or Amazon river dolphin from hunting throughout the Amazon. Around the turn of the new millennium however, fisherman working in Projeto Boto, a long-term boto research project in the Central Amazon region, broke the news that local fisherman were killing botos (Inia geoffrensis, Fig. 1) to use as bait to catch the “piracatinga” or “mota” (Callophysus macropterus, Fig. 2), a catfish highly appreciated by Colombians but not consumed by indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon. The piracatinga is a scavenger catfish and is popularly known in Brazil as the “water vulture”. The trade of piracatinga in the Occidental Amazon is mostly restricted to Colombia, however it has increasingly promoted the development of an intensive market for Brazilian fisherman of the middle and upper Amazon River and its tributaries. In the last three years, piracatinga began to be sold in Brazil, cut into filets, with the name of “douradinha”. This “new type” of fish can be found today in the main supermarkets and fish markets of most capitals of the central and northeast states of Brazil, including Brasilia the capital of Brazil, as one of the cheapest fish meats available. Parallel to this alarming information, the Projeto Boto team began observing evidence of boto hunting during our annual catching expeditions (da Silva & Martin, 2000), finding both dead and wounded dolphins, with deep harpoons scars, with ropes tied around the botos’ tail peduncle, and body mutilations. In addition, the team observed a significant loss of recognizable botos in our study area since 2000. This hunting practice is illegal and clandestine throughout the boto’s range. Fishermen are mostly reluctant to discuss


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