Without fish we will not survive. Our people have always lived off the fish in this region. I get sad when I hear the fish will run out. We live off the fish, off the river, that’s why we are the Yudja, which means “the lords of the river”, and we have always survived off the river, which for us is everything. As long as the Xingu exists, we will keep fighting. We will go on fighting until the end. When it dies, we die together with it.” Gilliarde Jurun
Fishing is the main activity for the subsistence of the Juruna, according to the Atlas of the Impacts of the Belo Monte HPP on Fishing. According to data from the two initial years of the Juruna’s independent monitoring, of the total production of 4,469 kg of fish, 98% is for food, and only 2% are marketed. In summary, of the food resource consumed, fish represents 55% of meals.
Fish is also an important income-generating alternative for the populations of the Big Bend, including the ornamental fishing done by the Juruna. The difficulty or impossibility of reaching fishing areas has been worrying the population.
“It used to take us one hour to get to the fishing grounds, and now it takes us twice as long. There are places we can’t reach anymore, because the water has decreased a lot and it is impossible to get through.”
The Basic Environmental Project of the Indigenous Component (PBA-CI) began its monitoring activities only in the second half of 2014, which did not allow for the necessary detailing on the consumption of fish and main species marketed that characterize the fishing activity of the Juruna Indians in the Big Bend, in the period that preceded the damming of the river.
Since the implementation of the hydroelectric plant, the indigenous people of the Mïratu village report that important fishing spots have been extinct or compromised with the beginning of the construction of Belo Monte and that the fish are either dying or sick.
In 2013, AYMIX, in partnership with ISA and the Federal University of Pará (UFPA), started independent monitoring in the region. The study is conducted by the indigenous researchers and involves a monthly survey on the dynamics of fishing and food consumption of the village families. This data is important for drawing the baseline to compare the situation before the damming with the transformations to come.
According to the fishing Atlas, important fishing areas were either extinct or compromised with the beginning of the construction of Belo Monte, due to impacts such as the artificial lighting of construction sites, use of explosives, building of cofferdams (provisional damming of the river), silting of watercourses, and land reclamation of river areas. With the permanent damming of the river in November 2015, new impacts have been identified and they tend to worsen due to the decrease in the river’s flow and conflicts over fishing areas, since many of the fishermen who lost their areas in Altamira and other regions are advancing into the Indigenous Land to fish, exerting pressure on the territory.
The catching of fish is closely linked to the river’s ebb and flow. Both the pacu and the matrinxã (brycon amazonicus), for example, feed on fruits from flooded areas and will not have such environments available with the change in river flow.
Both the impacts of the construction phase and those that result from the river diversion, point to a context of major changes in the fishing activity standards, and the livelihoods of the indigenous and riparian populations.
“Without fish we will not survive. Our people have always lived off the fish in this region. I get sad when I hear the fish will run out. We live off the fish, off the river, that’s why we are the Yudja, which means “the lords of the river”, and we have always survived off the river, which for us is everything. As long as the Xingu exists, we will keep fighting. We will go on fighting until the end. When it dies, we die together with it.”