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Why the Amazon's biggest fish is quickly going extinct

Why The Amazon's Biggest Fish Is Quickly Going Extinct

A massive species of fish that used to dominate the Amazon river is quickly dying out in several areas.

A recent study of fishing communities in the state of Amazonas, Brazil found the giant arapaima (air-ah-pie-ma) is already extinct in some parts of the Amazon basin.

The BBC notes, "of the 41 communities researchers studied, arapaima populations were extinct in eight of them."

And the giant fish, which typically weighs in at more than 400 pounds, is rapidly disappearing in other parts of the Amazon.

So what's the reason behind the arapaima's rapid extinction? Scientists have a simple answer: overfishing.

LiveScience quotes a researcher involved in the study, who says the arapaima is just too easy to catch.

"Arapaima spawn on the edges of floodplain forests and come to the surface to breathe every 5 to 15 minutes, when they are easily located and harpooned by fishers using homemade canoes."

And with populations growing and the fishing industry finally reaching Amazon villages, the research says these massive fish don't stand a chance.

See, there were two competing theories the researchers explored: The first is essentially the idea that overfishing can't cause extinction because fishermen have to move on when supply starts dwindling. The second theory is basically the opposite: That fishing can drive a population to extinction.

One of the study's authors said in a statement, "Bioeconomic thinking has predicted that scarcity would drive up fishing costs, which would increase price and help save depleted species. If that prediction were true, extinctions induced by fishing would not exist, but that is not what has happened."

The arapaima isn't the only aquatic creature in the Amazon to recently fall victim to local fishermen.

Brazil's Fishing and Aquaculture Ministry announced in June it is in the process of outlawing the fishing of a certain breed of catfish to protect the Pink Amazon River Dolphin, whose flesh is often used as bait for the catfish.

But there was also some good news that came out of the arapaima study. In communities where arapaima fishing is regulated, the species is actually doing pretty well, giving scientists hope that the species could be spared.

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Ripper August 15 2014 at 7:17 AM

As usual AOL and HuffPost have absolutely no clue what they are talking about and I think they just make stuff up to get ratings like every other news agency. First off the Arapaima is not the Amazon RIver's largest fish, it is the Paraiba. Which can grow large enough to swallow a full grown adult human and they have done it. Number two there are several Arapaima Farms along the river enclosed so they don't have to hunt them in the wild. Next time do the research before writing fictitious articles, you nitwits! Stop trying to make us think that every animal on Earth is going extinct. Alot of them are disappearing, but there are also lots of new species turning up in the last 15 years to replace them. It is called nature. I love man's arrogance that we will somehow kill this planet from 200 lousy years of the industrial age. When it has gone through far worse over the last 3 billion years and survived without our help. Mother Nature will always win and she'll shake us off like fleas.

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12 replies
newzbug August 15 2014 at 8:50 AM

Hey, if over hunting (buffalo, dodo) can drive animals to near extinction, then why not fishing?

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djeaninew1066 August 15 2014 at 1:54 PM

What a surprise! Too many F***ing people.

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1 reply
lisasin7 djeaninew1066 August 15 2014 at 8:10 PM


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danseda11 August 15 2014 at 10:03 AM

The Earth never was meant to hold the population it has and will find a way either through war or disease to get the population of humans under control

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5 replies
patrickliveshere August 15 2014 at 9:38 AM

Oh, don't you know.... If it get's reported [regardless of facts] it just has to be right. What happened to the dinosaurs that became extent? Did mankind just wipe them out for sport? Stupid, dumb ass liberals believe down deep if mankind were removed it would be a garden of Eden. ha ha ha ha!!!

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6 replies
Kate August 15 2014 at 11:48 AM

One of the problems is lack of education; people in the interior have a very hard time believing that something that was always there, will not continue to always be there.

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rfwestex August 15 2014 at 12:37 PM

Wow H.P. ! Something you couldn't blame on global warming, George Bush or the NRA! This is a milestone for your pathetic brand of journalism.

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1 reply
dgoffnspector rfwestex August 15 2014 at 1:45 PM

This was an Aol article, culled from one written by a journalist at BBC Nature (the giveaway is the Aol. logo, at the top).
Huffington Post (HP) is one of the many subsidiaries of AOL Inc. HP pages don't even have a remotely similar layout or posting format (they now use facebook, in fact). Are you really too brain dead to tell the difference? Are you even able to feed and dress yourself?

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Jeff August 15 2014 at 1:25 PM

Lets teach the villagers how to not over fish these fish.

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John August 15 2014 at 12:07 PM

Funny The Arapaima is really doing very well indeed having been introduced into other areas and are thriving to such a degrree they are threatening native fishes. Thye have so impacted some areas that behaviour of other species has drsticly changed in order to survive the intrusion of the Arapimia. Watch River Monsters I put more belief into Jeremy who has spent YEARS on the Amazon then this article.

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spdy65 August 15 2014 at 1:56 PM

The answer to any species going extinct is simple, it always can be traced back to man. We are this planets biggest enemy.

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1 reply
seabasskj spdy65 August 15 2014 at 3:09 PM

Good lord man. There are countless examples of species going extinct before man ever even stepped foot on the planet. The fossil record is loaded with animals that no man has ever seen.

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