The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


02 November 2018



Two years ago, it was difficult not to take notice of the outstanding submission which came in from the MAMIRAUÁ INSTITUTE. Detailing the organisation's Fishing Management Programme, their mission was to "bring back an Amazon giant", namely, the endangered Giant Arapaima fish. 

The work undertaken by the MAMIRAUÁ INSTITUTE improves the prospects of isolated riverine communities in the Amazon, where fishing is essential to survival and income. 

Coordinator of the Programme, Ana Cláudia Torres explains how it meant to the organisation to be shortlisted for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment. 

"For us, it is a source of pride to see 20 years of work being recognized and still prospering, with growth prospects. The St Andrews Prize for the Environment provided international recognition for the Mamirauá Institute and the management of pirarucu, which has much more to go forward. We have very tangible results and know that these results comply with principles of solidarity economy, fair trade and, at the same time, sustainable business brings great satisfaction to us."

As a finalist, the Institute received $25,000 USD, and they got straight to work investing this funding in growing the programme. 

"With the cash value of the prize, the initial result was the investment in the construction of a floating structure for cleaning and pre-beneficiation of the managed pirarucu that will bring a great differential around the quality of the product. At the moment, we are in the phase of installation of the technologies, and soon we will begin the first experiences of the structure in the sector Jarauá, pioneer in the handling of pirarucu in the region.

"With the award, we could also see a greater appreciation of the Fishery Management Program within the Mamirauá Institute and, as our group accumulates recognition for the work, there is also a greater opportunity for larger projects, given the magnitude of pirarucu management.

"Since we were recognized, I can highlight as advances the invitation to Mamirauá Institute to participate actively in the construction of the draft that gave rise to the Amazonas state decree of the management of pirarucu. Subsequently to this, the pirarucu management methodology was certified as a social technology by the Banco do Brasil Foundation, a stimulus that started from the St Andrews Prize. We also had the implementation of two more pirarucu management projects in the region, which brought enormous satisfaction to us. We are always promoting improvements to the process, which is dynamic and it is being updated based on the findings and experiences accumulated by our group."

With so much happening at the Institute, what is next for the Fishing Management Programme? 

"We are very close to having the first floating structure model of pre-processing of pirarucu implemented and managed with the participation of the fishing communities in the region, located in the Jarauá sector. Soon after, we want to expand this model in at least two more areas in the Mamirauá Reserve, and also to work very strongly in the self-management of these projects, so that we can in a not very long period promote the integral transfer of management projects, especially those who have been working for almost 20 years, so that the Fishery Management Programme can focus on our work of disseminating management practices to other locations in the Amazon, beyond the Mamirauá and Amanã Reserves, where we operate with greater intensity. We have plans to be present in other territories of the Amazon."

And what advice would they give to those considering entering the Prize in future? 

"People who carry out sustainable initiatives can sometimes think "what I do is local or serves an audience that does not extend over a very large geographical area." But we can change the reality of a collective, even if it is local, that can make a difference in other contexts, with resources that can be obtained from initiatives and prizes, such as the St Andrews Prize. Always believe that your experience, if it already transforms a reality locally, can be replicated in other contexts as well and maybe promote changes in the lives of other people.

"With regard to the management of pirarucu, we are in a more favorable situation for those who want to start the process than 10 years ago, because we already have many references, much material published about it, by the Mamirauá Institute and other organizations in the Amazon. I recommend looking for experiences that are already carried out in the region, to make exchanges with managers, with technical teams that already work in the field. Exchanges even among the management groups, because one thing is the vision and the guidance of a technician, another is to listen to a fisherman who came from the reality of resource shortage and who today is in the management reaping the fruits of this conservation work, saying that it works. This appeal is very strong and these exchanges promote this."

Find out more about the Mamirauá Institute through their finalist page