The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


21 October 2016

An update from 2016 Finalists the Mamiraua Institute

An update from 2016 Finalists the Mamiraua Institute

The deadline for submissions for this year’s St Andrews Prize for the Environment is drawing ever closer. We have received a phenomenal response so far, but there is still time to submit your entry for this year. Previous finalists have seen huge success arise out of being shortlisted for the Prize, one in particular being 2016 finalist, the Mamirauá Institute.

The Institute’s Fishing Management Programme is focused on increasing the population of an endangered species of fish called the Giant Arapaima. The project helps improve the prospects of isolated riverine communities in the Amazon, where fishing is essential to their survival and income.

With the aim of creating a greater awareness of the project, and expanding its partnership network to help scale the model to other places beyond South America, being shortlisted for the Prize has allowed them to move closer to their goal.

Polli Ferraz from the Institute spoke to us about being shortlisted for the Prize and what it meant for them. 

“Since we were first contacted to be informed that, from more than 500 applications we were one of the 33 selected for the second round stage, a multitude of feelings grew in each of us: hope, joy and a strong confidence on the merits of our proposal. When we were contacted the second time, with the notification that we were among the ten finalists, we celebrated as winners. At that time, we considered that being among the ten finalists was already a victory and an international recognition of our conservation and sustainable development efforts.

“Being shortlisted was a work of many hands, the joy of many hearts and an increase on the probabilities of improving the quality of life of many riverine people. To be shortlisted was a victory and a great learning experience.”

As well as gaining extra exposure for the Institute, and its work, the Prize money they received also allowed them to create a new and exciting project to further develop the Programme.

“With the funds we received from being shortlisted for the award, the Mamirauá Institute was able to create a technology project which looks at improving the quality of the Giant Arapaima fish.

“Seasonal flooding occurs in the floodplains in the Amazon due to the variation in the river level. This requires a floating structure with special features to receive and pre-process wild-caught pirarucu. With the St Andrews Prize, the Mamirauá Institute designed and built a “green” floating house, featuring water catchment and treatment, treatment of solid waste produced during fish pre-processing, and uses solar energy.

“The principles that rule our proposal are the need to improve the sanitary conditions of final fish products, and reduce environmental impacts. This means no disposal of pollutants or contaminants in the environment, and zero carbon emissions during electricity production.

“The improvement in the quality of the fish products aims, in the long term, to draw public attention to the needs of nurturing a culture of sanitary inspection and certification. This certification is determinant to aggregate more value to commercialized fish in the first bonds of the commercial chain. It will also open the door to other markets which, as of yet, have been inaccessible. Initially we aim for inspection and certification at a local level and, eventually, at a State level. We hope that the foundation of this culture of inspection and certification among pirarucu fishermen can, in the future, be expanded to a national level, allowing wild-caught pirarucu to be exported to other States in Brazil.

“The main aim of this project is to improve the quality of the fish, therefore allowing fishermen to compete with the higher prices present in other regions of Brazil. By increasing the income of the fishermen, we can work towards improving their quality of life and their beneficiaries as a result.”

So what do the Institute think the ingredients are for a successful entry? 

“For the candidates applying in 2017, and beyond, we would advise you to tell the stories of the people impacted by the project and how it is showing genuine improvements for those involved. As well as this, it’s important to track your results carefully and translate this into solid numbers. The combination of these two elements is hugely important to those entering, and to those eventually shortlisted.”

To find out more about the Mamirauá Institute, visit

Enter the 2018 Prize Here