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Francisco Ivo Barbosa and Wolf D. Hartmann
IBAMA/PAPEC, Brasilia/Fortaleza, Brazil


North-eastern Brazil is a semi-arid region historically plagued by droughts, which le d to the death of thousands and emigration of millions of people. The construction of dams and creation of reservoirs has been the major instrument of fight against the effects of drought. The National Department of Works against Droughts (DNOCS), created in 1909, was given the responsibility to administer reservoirs and associated natural resources, such as irrigated agriculture and fisheries. A major measure to improve fish production has been the stocking of reservoirs. Since the early 1980s DNOCS has been suffering serious budget cuts which affect its reservoir fisheries management.

In order to reverse this situation, a joint Brazilian-German technical co-operation project in reservoir fisheries development, PAPEC, was initiated at two medium-sized reservoirs in Ceará state in 1990. Very quickly PAPEC changed its emphasis from an eminently technical to an institutional approach. Over the last six years it has developed, field-tested and applied a wide range of methods and instruments in the areas of environmental awareness creation, community organisation, and co-management in reservoir fisheries. Problems encountered are: ambivalence of the Government towards user participation; lack of legal backing of co-management system; State's preference for generally applicable rules over locality-specific regulations emanating from the co-management process; inadequate rule enforcement by organisations concerned and restrictions to community involvement in this management function. There is also the problem of aquatic weeds. The participatory reservoir fisheries management system developed and implemented jointly by PAPEC and user communities has been successful and activities have covered more reservoirs within the same catchment area than originally scheduled. The major achievement has been the fostering of citizens' awareness among its target group.


1.1 Politics of droughts and drought alleviation in north-eastern Brazil

About 12% of Brazil has a semi-arid climate, with low, seasonal rainfall, irregular both in time and space (Ministério da Agricultura, 1990). This area of about 900,000 km2 comprises nine states in the country's north-east, known as “Polygon of Droughts”.

Droughts have been a constant phenomenon in this region, reported ever since the early days of European occupation. Only within the 20th century, there have been 17 severe droughts, including that of 1991–1993. They had devastating effects on the local populations, killing thousands and forcing millions into internal emigration. 1 What was left were destabilised communities, devastated infrastructure, widespread hunger and malnutrition, disease, violence, banditry, religious fanaticism and precarious subsistence opportunities, prone to collapse at the slightest deterioration of already adverse climatic conditions (Castro, 1984). A system of dependency and clientalism of local peasants (sertanejos) vis-à-vis powerful landlords, the “colonels” (corenéis), who controlled access to natural resources, in particular water, was common. Thus, droughts have had severe economic, political, social and psychological effects on the local populations. A major part of the region's rich cultural heritage is dedicated to this theme (Ministério da Agricultura, 1990).

Like the droughts, the construction of dams on seasonal rivers, locally called açudes, goes back many centuries. It was, however, only after the severe droughts of 1844/45 and subsequent years that first Brazil's Imperial, then its Republican governments undertook to construct dams in a big way.2 The damming of rivers and the creation of reservoirs both on private and public lands became the major instrument of the state's policy against the dreaded effects of the droughts.3

A total number of about 60,000 reservoirs with an inundated area of approximately 800,000 ha were created in the north-east. More than half of them were built in the years 1950–1970. Their purpose is water storage for use during the dry season, river flow regulation to allow for irrigated cultivation of perennial crops, and, to a lesser extent, hydro-electric power generation.

1.2 The rise and decline of state reservoir management

Construction and administration of about 300 public reservoirs, and the management of the natural resources associated with them, such as the surrounding lands and the fisheries above as well as irrigated areas below the dams, became the responsibility of a federal organisation, the National Department of Works against Droughts (DNOCS), which was founded in 1909. To this date DNOCS is considered the “owner” of reservoirs and its associated natural resources. Over the last 90 years, its actions can be grouped into three phases: reconnaissance and studies regarding the resource potential; provision/implementation of infrastructure; and provisioning of water resources, mainly through the formation of reservoirs, for domestic water supply, irrigation, and capture fisheries and fish culture (Ministério da Agricultura, 1990).

1 In the ‘Great Drought’ of 1877–1880, more than half of the population of 1.75 million, that lived in the affected area, vanished During the drought of 1915, 27,000 inhabitants (or about 20% of the population) of the state of Cear á died and thousands emigrated, in their majority to Amazonia. Since 1970 no direct death (this is, death by thirst) could be attributed to drought; however, 11% of the total population, mainly the younger and more qualified ones, migrated to other parts of the country (MA, 1990).

2 Earlier measures taken by (colonial) governments to fight the effects of droughts were the obligatory production of manioc meal and the concentration of those affected by drought in certain locations, which gave rise to many of today's cities in the north-eastern hinterland (MA, 1990).

3 In fact, “damming” (açudagem) became a major policy instrument in itself. Constructed with public money on private lands under the condition of allowing access to peasants, local landowner-politicians frequently conceded the right of use of the reservoir only in exchange for votes. Pledges to construct public dams, some of which took decades to complete, and the praise for their commissioning were (and still are) important electoral promises and arguments. Dams helped to elect generations of local politicians, and, until today, to raise and waste large sums of money (VEJA, 1995).

The latter objective, capture fisheries and fish culture in and around reservoirs, was taken up in earnest when a Technical Commission for Fish Culture in the North-east was created within DNOCS in 1932. The Commission proposed measures such as stocking of reservoirs, eradication of species detrimental to fisheries and other reservoir uses, here mainly the notorious piranha (Serrasalmus sp.), and the organisation of fishing and fish marketing (Braga, 1972).

In 1933, the federal Service of Fish and Game was established within the Ministry of Agriculture (Divisão de Caça e Pesca). Although responsible for fishery and wildlife management in all public waters and lands, it was mainly concerned with enforcement of respective legislation. Regarding reservoirs in the north-east, however, all fisheries management responsibilities were sub-contracted to DNOCS in 1945, where they still are at present.4 In 1945, DNOCS established the fisheries research station “Rodolpho von Ihering” at Pentecoste reservoir, which should become one of the leading aquaculture research stations in Latin America. In the 1950s and 1960s, fishing was taken up at most large reservoirs under DNOCS' supervision. Today 104 reservoirs are still under its jurisdiction, with a total area of about 140,000 ha.

4 The subcontract with DNOCS has since been renewed several times by the service's successor organisations, i.e. the National Fisheries Development Authority - SUDEPE (1992–1989) and the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources - IBAMA, the organisation in charge of fisheries in federal waters (1989-today).

Reservoirs were managed by four regional divisions (each covering one or more federal states) responsible for the control of fishermen, boats and gear within its area. Management measures taken up by DNOCS, such as imposition of minimum mesh sizes, closed seasons during spawning of some species and the periodical stocking, were aimed at safeguarding fish stocks and preventing collapse of the reservoir fisheries.

Stocking in particular was considered essential, as the fish fauna in reservoirs fed by seasonal rivers is poor and some of the reservoirs dry up completely during severe droughts. At seven of the reservoirs, DNOCS set up fingerling production units to provide fish for stocking of both public and private reservoirs. About 75% of fingerlings stocked were introduced species, some of them African, others from the Amazon River basin. While fish species from the Amazon had been introduced since the early 1930s, mainly with a view to biologically control the unwanted piranhas as well as to alleviate the chronic shortage of protein in the region, African species, such as Tilapia rendalli, were introduced in 1956, and from 1973 onwards, O. niloticus was stocked in a big way (Braga, 1972; Petrere, 1996). Catch data, which were recorded for 104 large reservoirs from 1970 onwards, reflected this stocking policy: about 70–80% of the landings belong to ‘acclimatised’ species, with O. niloticus being the single most important commercial fish, constituting 30% of the total production (Ministério do Meio Ambiente, 1996).

Historical data collected by DNOCS indicate an average fish production of about 120 kg/ha/year. The total fish yield in reservoirs under DNOCS' control is estimated at about 16–20,000 t/year (Gurgel and Fernando, 1994).

While in the 1960s and 1970s DNOCS had hundreds of fisheries staff in the fi eld for such management tasks as fisher registration and licensing, data collection, law enforcement, stocking and others, its presence declined drastically due to financial constraints in the government's budget, from 1980 onwards. Being almost totally dependent on federal funds, DNOCS had to cut back on its staff by more than half and to close many of its control posts and field offices. Thus, while still legally responsible for fisheries management at the reservoirs, it had ceased to effectively perform this task.


2.1 Origins

As part of a larger project of technical co-operation between the governments of Brazil and Germany in artisanal fisheries development in Brazil's north-east and north, the ‘Reservoir Fisheries Management Project in Ceará State - PAPEC’ was established in 1990. It is being implemented by IBAMA on the Brazilian side, and by GOPA-Consultants, on behalf of the German Agency for Technical Co-operation - GTZ, on the German side. Project activities started at two reservoirs, Caxitoré and Pentecoste; during the project's second phase (1996–1998), three more reservoirs, that is, General Sampaio, Tejussuoca and Frios, were added (Fig. 1). Thus, all public reservoirs of the Curu River watershed are within PAPEC's area of operation.

There were several reasons for the choice of Ceará as the location of the project: mainly the existence of fisheries research infrastructure, though now in decline, and the interest shown by IBAMA's office at state level, which had already initiated a number of activities promoting reservoir fisheries development. The most important reason, however, was the importance of reservoirs for Ceará's rural economy.

Ceará is one of the poorest states in the Brazilian north-east, with 93% of its area being semi-arid. At the same time it comprises more than half of all reservoirs in the north-east. Its 7500 public and private reservoirs (>5 ha) with a total waterspread of about 140,000 ha, have an estimated fisheries potential of 20,000 t/year. This is of considerable importance to rural communities, as fish represent one of the few sources of income during the long dry season. The potential of these reservoirs is still underdeveloped, largely due to poor fisheries management, coupled with an inadequate infrastructure for preserving and marketing the catch. Today's annual fish production from these water bodies is in the range of 10,000 t only (Christensen, 1996).

2.2 Objectives

Project objectives reflect experiences made during project implementation and a c hange in project concepts from technical to institutional development, and from predominantly fisheries-oriented to integrated natural resource management of and around reservoirs. Hence, while initially the objective was the ‘creation and development of basic elements for reservoir fisheries management’, project experience and practice led to 'a reformulation of this objective, which became ‘participatory and sustainable natural resources management of public reservoirs’.

Figure 1. Reservoirs of the Rio Curu Watershed.

Figure 1.

2.3 Principles, areas of activity and methodology

2.3.1 Principles

The choice of methods developed and applied by PAPEC is guided by four overriding principles:

2.3.2 Areas of activities and methodology

Environmental awareness training

The objective is to make communities living on the margins of the reservoirs aware of local ecological processes and to allow them to acquire the knowledge, values, abilities and experiences required to sustainably manage their natural resources in the long term and without further external assistance (Bezerra e Silva, 1996). As many community members as possible are trained using an innovative, participatory training programme developed by PAPEC. A particular emphasis, however, is given to training of primary schoolteachers.

Community organisation

Community organisation focuses on two aspects, i.e. the formation of an organised community that deals, if not on equal, then on a stronger footing than before with established political entities; and the development of complementary sources of income as a fundamental means to take pressure off overused natural resources, and to stem rural exodus.

Fisheries management

Resource management at community level

Resource management at community level focuses on two aspects, i.e. fisheries legislation and resource base protection and enhancement. National fishery legislation exists but is inadequate and not accepted by the communities. The project is assisting the responsible government institution, IBAMA, to define fisheries regulations specific to each reservoir in co-operation with the local population. With regard to resource base protection and enhancement, activities centre on aquatic weeds removal and community participation in stocking.

Catchment-wise integrated water resources management

Reservoirs are part of an integrated resource system with multiple and interdependent users both above and below the dam. In order to manage resource use by all involved, a process of participatory integrated water resources management was introduced which has the catchment area of the main river supplying the reservoirs as its planning and management unit. The project is assisting the responsible government institution, the state government's Company for Water Resources Management, i.e. ‘Companhia de Gestão dos Recursos Hídricos — COGERH’, to organise community members for participation in the system; furthermore, the project as an organisation is represented in the system's decision-making body.

Data collection

The project collects and analyses data on fisheries production, as well as on biological and physio-chemical parameters, in order to identify possible management options to improve fisheries production.

Fishing technology

The project conducts work on fishing technology mainly with a view to modify existing gear to allow for more selective fishing or to reduce time and costs spent in fishing. While the first measure would prevent the catch of small specimens or unwanted fish, the latter aims at creating time for other productive activities.


Reservoirs are stocked by DNOCS with fingerlings of native and non-native species that already occur and that are of commercial importance in order to enhance existing fish populations and/or occupy under-utilised ecological niches. The project has taken on the task of researching the financial viability of culture-based capture fisheries. Furthermore, it participates in the negotiations between local communities and DNOCS regarding fingerling supply.

Project co-ordination

Though obviously not an objective in itself, project co-ordination is an important area of activity with its specific methodology and institutions. This is true in particular with regard to overall co-ordination, which is the task of a committee, in which representatives of all organisations involved in the implementation of project activities, including representatives of community associations, participate.

Table 1 provides a summary of the methods applied in each area of activity and the achievements obtained so far.

Table 1. Summary table on methods and quantitative achievements.

Methods and InstrumentsQuantitative Achievements
Environmental awareness training  
2-day environmental awareness programmes;  
5-day courses in basic concepts of ecology for primary teachers;88 primary teachers participated in environmental education courses and seminars;
competitions among primary-school students;2 school competitions with about 1800 students participating;
publication of comic-type extension materials (cartilhas) and of trainers materials for the use of cartilhas by schoolteachers;5 cartilhas, trainers materials for their use by teachers and 2 almanacs published;
conduct of community events highlighting environmental topics and environmental campaigns;various community events highlighting environmental topics carried out; conduct of two environmental campaigns (rubbish disposal; rat control);
reforestation;reservoir edges reforested (5000 shrubs and trees planted).
Community organisation  
establishing and strengthening of community associations;creation of 10 community associations; assistance in the creation of two federations of community associations (apesca at caxitore and cobape at pentecoste reservoirs);
involvement of 30 communities (of 130/1500 people each) in activities promoted by the project);
community leader training (moderation of meetings; internal organisation of community associations);about 100 community leaders trained in various aspects of community organisation;
local-level community action planning and implementation (drawing-up of community action plans through the application of 'self-applied community appraisals - sca's, which are periodically updated);3 community action plans drawn up which are yearly updated; 3 censuses elaborated and periodically updated;
entrepreneurial capacity formation through specialised training programmes adapted by PAPEC (5-day courses focusing on such topics as characteristics of entrepreneurs; generation of [business] ideas; marketing and costing; and cost/benefit and economic analyses);about 25 participants, including shopkeepers, artisans, farmers and fishers took part in 2 entrepreneurial capacity formation courses;
creation of rotating funds to actually finance possible alternative sources of income;creation of 7 rotating funds;
promotion of activities aiming at providing alternative sources of income and livelihood;initiation of activities aiming at providing alternative sources of income (fish cage-culture; breeding of game animals; dairying; cultivation of medicinal plants);
Fisheries management  
Resource management at community level  
promotion of community meetings for discussion of how best to manage natural resources sustainably;continuous activity;
annual meeting of all interested local fishers at a fisheries congress to form agreements (acordos de pesca) on regulations acceptable to the majority or suggest adaptations to agreements formed the year before and since experimentally implemented;4 fisheries agreements concluded in caxitore;
2 fisheries agreements concluded in pentecoste;
conversion of fisher proposals into decrees (portarias) by IBAMA;4 community proposals for fisheries regulations ratified by ibama (prohibition of fishing with harpoons, completely or in certain areas; prohibition of the use of small mesh-sizes for six months after the principal breeding periods; prohibition of fishing by driving fish into gill nets; prohibition of using fingerlings as bait);
Catchment-wise integrated water resources management  
constitution of a commission of reservoir users (representatives of associations, trade unions, projects, government and non-government organisations);commission of reservoir users constituted;
monthly commission meetings;
elaboration of joint water use plans for river basins;joint water use plan for the Curu River basin elaborated;
conduct of a yearly seminar for discussion and ratification of proposals made by the user commission;yearly seminar for discussion and ratification of proposals made by the user commission conducted;
Fishing technology  
to increase catch efficiency of existing fishing gear;no results;
to introduce new fishing methods (fishing with bait; fish aggregating devices);experiments with surface fish aggregating devices; experiments with bait;
to introduce cage culture of tulip;assistance in experiments with cage culture of tilapia;
to reduce the occurrence of aquatic weeds (Eichhornia crassipes);campaign against infestation of most reservoirs with Eichhornia conducted;
Data collection  
all data collection activities are carried out in co-operation with local fishers;continuous activity;
catch data are collected by local fishers and processed at project headquarters;continuous activity;
research on specific topics and writing of M.Sc. theses by project staff;  
information feedback to fishers and their communities;feedback to fishers and communities on occasion of bi-monthly community meetings as well as through a 3-monthly newsletter;
to define, together with community leaders, the numbers and places of and for fingerlings to be stocked at each reservoir;yearly;
to negotiate the supply of fingerlings by DNOCS and to actually accompany stocking at the reservoir site;stocking of four reservoirs with a total of 2.3 million fingerlings; fingerlings size in the range of 5 cm from 1990–1995; from 1996 onwards, only fingerlings of about 10 cm are being stocked by DNOCS;
stocking of about 500,000 fingerlings of tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) was not reflected in catches;
to determine the effects of stocking on fish production;no results yet.


3.1 Environmental awareness creation

Under normal circumstances one presumes that rural producers know enough about the sustainable use of natural resources they depend upon. If resource use is not sustainable, it is not because of lack of knowledge. Yet, at most places reservoirs are of recent origin and there are no local traditions of resource use and management to draw from. Furthermore, some of the users have newly come to the reservoir areas as settlers in land reform projects. This lack of experience, coupled with a general demand for more locality - and situation-specific education and training for both children and adults, and here especially primary schoolteachers, has led to a persistent interest of community members in environmental issues and the training associated with it offered by PAPEC.

Establishment of environmental awareness was found to be an important prerequisite for rational resource use. It develops community understanding of important linkages, e.g. deforestation in the hills and sedimentation in reservoirs, open sewage systems and infant mortality, catching fish in the breeding season and reduction of catches, etc. Perhaps more important, events of environmental education and training are a starting point for both community organisation as well as participatory fisheries management. It was during the environmental training events that the idea of a co-management system was first raised, in which community members could address some of the 13 problem areas they had identified: capture of fish during their spawning migration; use of small-mesh gill nets; unclear land ownership rights; the need of fishers to participate in community meetings where they could present their ideas and possible solutions; and others (Christensen et al., 1995).5

Environmental education continues to be an important instrument, both in fostering environmental awareness in communities where the project has been active, as well as in the extension of project activities to other reservoirs in the state.6

3.2 Community organisation

In addition to environmental awareness creation, the strengthening of community organisations is an important stepping-stone on the way to PAPEC's objective of ‘participatory and sustainable natural resource management’. While in some villages neighbourhood associations existed, in others they had to be set up. It became clear that while initially the task of community organisation requires the presence of dedicated extensionists and other organisers in the field, it is not a one-shot undertaking, but a continuing process. Attempts to pass the ongoing responsibility for organising communities on to municipal administrations have not been successful. In the long run, community organisation can only be the task of communities and their dedicated and persistent leaders.

5 Co-management is defined as an arrangement where responsibility for resource management is shared between government and user groups. It is anything between the two extremes of government management and community management.

6 In December 1996, a major campaign of environmental awareness creation funded by the Ministry of Environment was conducted by primary schoolteachers trained by the project.

A number of communities have started to take matters into their own hands and are effectively lobbying to solve their problems and implement their action plans. Impact monitoring carried out by some communities has actually shown a reasonable rate of success. That is, a fair number of items on the communities' “shopping-list” (such as health posts, electricity, schools, fishing gear, etc.) were actually provided under various schemes of government authorities concerned. However, after four years of experience in community self-organisation at the project's core reservoirs, a certain fatigue has set in among community members, which expresses itself in the reluctance to stand for office without remuneration, etc. Has all the effort really resulted in an improvement of living conditions, what is the cost/benefit of it? Clearly, the old system of local politicians pushing projects to foster their electoral interests had its advantages! This too is confirmed by the fact that large internationally funded programmes in the region are still being promoted in exactly that way. And, what is worse, they have frequently more success in getting “projects” underway, notwithstanding how ill conceived and short lived these might be.

3.3 Fisheries management

Table 2 provides an overview of the degree of co-management in the Curu River reservoir fisheries (CRRF). It shows that communities participate in four out of seven major management functions.

Participation in policy decision-making takes place mainly within the framework of community organisation and environmental awareness creation. Of course, to date policy making is limited to local (community action planning) and sub-regional (participation in project-/watershed-related decision-making) levels only.

The community's involvement in regulating fishery access relates to its elaboration of proposals for rules regarding reservoir fishing. Results have been a surprise. So far all community proposals regarding management measures, such as closure of breeding grounds, prohibition of certain types of fishing equipment and of fishing during breeding migrations, have been ratified by IBAMA and thus have become fisheries legislation. These include changes in regulations previously proposed and ratified, which were adapted on the basis of experiences made by the community in rule implementation. The process of elaboration of management proposals is by now well established at community level and part of its annual calendar of routine activities (see Fig. 2). Lately proposal ratification has been a slow process, not at all in accord with the communities' need for speedy decision-making. It depends largely on the goodwill, comprehension and interest in co-management by individual civil servants concerned. In addition, it became quite clear that the organisation favours generally applicable and easily controllable rules instead of a myriad of locality-specific regulations emanating from the participatory process.7

7 For example, IBMA wants a date after which fishing is prohibited to protect spawners; yet, spawning starts with the onset of winter rains, which is not predictable. Similarly, IBAMA has uniformly set a minimum mesh-size of 90 mm (respectively 50 mm for fishing for sardinha, (Triportheus angulatus) in inland waters, while local fishers, after much deliberating, have concluded that smaller meshes can be used during specific periods of the year.

Table 2. Management functions and co-management in Curu River reservoir fisheries (CRRF).

Management FunctionManagement ActivityCo-Management
1.Policy Decision-Making   
Scoping problemsX-
Setting long-term objectivesX-
2.Data Gathering and Analysis   
3.Regulating Fishery Access   
Elaboration of Proposals on:  
•       TimingX 
•       LocationX 
•       Gear and vesselsX 
Deciding/ratifying rules-X
4.Regulating Fishery Harvest --
5.Rule Enforcement -X
6.Habitat/Resource Protection and/or Enhancement   
Habitat monitoringX-
Habitat protectionX-
Habitat restoration/enhancementX-
Resource use co-ordinationXX
7.Benefit Maximisation   
Supply management--
Quality enhancement--
Product diversification--

Adapted from Pinkerton and Weinstein (1996)

Communities are excluded from the crucial management function of rule enforcement. This is despite the fact that lack of compliance with regulations and lack of enforcement of rules by the authorities concerned is said to be the main problem affecting co-management. It is, however, not clear who, in their majority, the non-compliers are: community members, fishers from neighbouring reservoirs, migratory fishers or sports fishers from nearby urban centres. At present, the Brazilian law guarantees access by anyone to all public waters, as long as she/he is licensed and respects national fisheries law. However, outsiders are usually not aware of the locality-specific rules and regulations drawn up by the community. Enforcement is the sole responsibility of IBAMA, which may execute it in co-operation with other government enforcement agencies. In fact, IBAMA's enforcement at reservoirs is insufficient, and an increase in efforts to enforce management rules is unlikely. This is due to the fact that only few enforcement personnel and no equipment is available. Furthermore, as enforcement is a major source of official revenue as well as illicit income, reservoir fisheries is not a priority area for law enforcement. Informal community involvement in enforcement has led to the following experiences: there is a general reluctance by local fishers to enforce rules against fellow community members; attempts to impose rule compliance between individuals have, in some cases, resulted in threats by the infringer, and, quite rightly, the possible risk to the community manager is considered not worth taking.

Figure 2. Community Management Cycle.

Figure 2.

Habitat protection and restoration relates most prominently to attempts at the removal of aquatic weeds (particularly Eichhornia crassipes) in some of the reservoirs. Other habitat protection and/or restoration activities relate to reforestation of the reservoirs' edges. The occurrence of aquatic weeds is considered the second most important problem affecting co-management. Why maintain protected areas and closed seasons when, physically, there is no access possible to certain fishing grounds during most of the year? Efforts promoted by the project in partnership with municipal governments to manually remove weeds have so far not yielded any major improvement.

Resource use co-ordination takes place within the framework of integrated aquatic resources management on catchment basis.8 The monthly deliberations of the user commission and the yearly meeting of the user council have led to a greater understanding of interlinked water uses. According to commission members, positive outcomes of the adopted procedure have been ex-ante knowledge over water demand by different users, which has led to better planning, an increased control over water supply in the valley, and reduction of conflicts over water use (COGERH, 1996). Yet, until now discussions are dominated by problems of interest to irrigation farmers (e.g. monthly water quotas, water fee, etc.) and domestic water users (pollution, leaks and faulty pipes, etc.). A problem common to more than one group was siltation of reservoirs.

8 Since 1990 IBAMA is implementing this river basin-oriented approach in aquatic resources management in all inland waters.

Surprisingly, no efforts are so far being made to maximise the benefits from the fishery. This might be due to the fact that fish supply in the state is deficit, and there are no major marketing problems as the reservoir fisheries are situated relatively close to large urban consumption centres.

Criteria most commonly used to evaluate the outcomes of new institutional arrangements, such as co-management, are sustainability, efficiency and equity of resource use and management (Hartmann, 1995). Sustainability depends on stewardship and resilience; efficiency is measured by a decrease in transaction costs and increase in net returns to fishers; and equity means improvements in representation, process clarity and distributive effects (Sen and Nielsen, 1996). From the above one can gather that reservoir fishers, as well as other users, have taken over greater responsibility, and thus, stewardship over the resource. The management process has become resilient, as users react to changes in the resource and its exploitation. Data collected so far have not provided any quantitative insights regarding the efficiency of co-management. Apparently there has been an improvement in rule compliance (reduction in transaction costs?). Furthermore, an increase in landings of the indigenous species of curimatã (Prochilodus cearensis) has been observed and is being attributed to the maintenance of protected areas and closed seasons during spawning periods (improved net returns to fishers). User representation has undoubtedly improved through the development/participation in user organisations and institutions, so has process clarity. Practically nothing is known about changes in income distribution as an effect of co-management. Increased access to social infrastructure and services (e.g. education, health posts, electricity, water supply, etc.) and a more equal distribution of benefits from such investments however, can definitely be recorded as success points on the co-management side.

3.4 Stocking

Undoubtedly, stocking by DNOCS in project reservoirs, in particular with fingerlings of tilapia and tucunaré (Cichla monoculus), has had a tremendous effect on fish production, which has practically doubled, if not trebled.9 On the other hand, stocking with tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) was not reflected in fish landings.10

At present, fingerlings are being stocked at relatively low densities.11 This is not a result of a particular stocking strategy, but an outcome of insufficient fingerling supply from DNOCS hatcheries.12 Attempts to complement stocking with fingerlings bought from private hatcheries operating in other river basins were vetoed by DNOCS, allegedly to avoid re-introduction of piranha.

A detailed analysis of DNOCS' stocking policy as a prerequisite for the development of proposals to improve and possibly to intensify reservoir stocking, which is one of PAPEC's tasks, has so far resulted in studies of cost/benefit of fingerling production (Carvalho et al., 1995; Paiva Filho and Pedrosa Martins, 1996). A study by one of PAPEC's staff members on stocking by DNOCS in three reservoirs (albeit not “project reservoirs”) has come to the following conclusions: increase in production depends strongly on the non-prevalence/prevalence of carnivorous fish species; not always are the costs of stocking (let alone total costs of the fishery) less than the value of production; and the catch composition after stocking has virtually remained the same as before (Paiva Filho, 1995). DNOCS itself is not interested in finding out about the profitability of its stocking programme. Its staff stresses the social character of DNOCS' approach. This is understandable, as fingerling production by DNOCS is about four times more expensive than by private hatcheries, and fingerling supply is an important function of an organisation that fights for its existence.

Local communities, which could take up fingerling production for stocking of their reservoirs, have refused to do so, as long as its profitability can not be shown, and, more important, as long as they do not have exclusive use rights to their reservoir fisheries. Until such time, enhancement has to concentrate on the maintenance of protected areas and closed seasons.

9 The introduction and stocking with tilapia has led to a steep increase from a reported average yield of about 45 kg/ha/year in the 1960s to 120 kg/ha/year at present. Apart from the introduction of tilapia, which is known to increase yields in shallow tropical reservoirs, some of this increase could also be due to more intensive fishing activity and better data collection (Gurgel and Fernando, 1994).

10 There are, however, views that hold the non-occurrence of tambaqui in landings to be a result of inadequate fishing methods; in the area of its origin, i.e. the Amazon, tambaqui is normally caught with hook and line baited with fruit!

11 In the period 1990–1995 fingerlings were stocked at an average of 38 fingerlings/ha (< 5cm); at present, fingerlings of 10 cm length are stocked at similar densities.

12 There is presently a demand for about 20 million fingerlings/year in the state, out of which only about 6 million (or 30%) can be provided by DNOCS.

3.5 Fishing technology

The project activities to improve fishing technology have not so much aimed at an increase in fish production, as there are already indications of overfishing in reservoirs, but rather towards a reduction in time, more economic methods and an increase in selectivity. Some of the experiments have been successful (e.g. fish aggregating devices), while others showed no changes in catches (e.g. fishing with bait). The results have indicated little scope for major technological improvements in reservoir fishing, although there might be scope for small-scale cage culture, and the project has initiated experiments in this direction in co-operation with local fishers.13

13 Only very recently, cage culture in public waters, such as reservoirs, has become possible by receiving legal sanction through an interministerial decree. Unfortunately, the legal instruments so far developed favour the cession of water areas to specialised aquaculture firms. PAPEC has taken the initiative to create (legal) conditions for artisanal fishers and their associations to enter this activity.


Reservoir fisheries are part of a complex system of integrated resource use. Projects directed towards reservoir resource development thus necessarily address the interface of fisheries and other productive activities. Most problems in reservoir fisheries development result from institutional difficulties rather than technological ones. These stem, on one hand, from the particular approach, of organisations to reservoir and fisher management, which has been characterised by paternalism and/or welfare concerns, and, on the other, from the decline of state management which is unlikely to be revived. This has created a vacuum and has left reservoir fisher communities in the lurch. A major consequence of this has been the promotion of co-management of reservoir fisheries and other resource uses.

Training is an essential part of this process. While environmental awareness training is a starting point for the community to reflect on its relationship with the environment and natural resources at its disposal, training in aspects of community organisation contributes to the strengthening of individuals and their associations, making it possible to interact more efficiently between themselves and governmental institutions.

Community organisation is a delicate process. It requires, at least initially, d edicated extension workers who live in the field for long periods. At the same time, outside organisers should avoid dominating community affairs and should be aware of the time limits of their involvement. In the medium and long run, no project or municipal administration or other organisation will defend community interests. Consequently, in the future the project will attempt to mould community members into community organisers, and not municipal employees, as it tried in the past. To maintain the motivation of their leaders and to allow them to work efficiently, associations will have to have their own revenue and funds, including for paying their members for services rendered.

While officially community participation is a widely accepted and much prai sed concept, in reality participation is being undermined and sabotaged at many levels and by many organisations. This endangers the still vulnerable participatory process developed jointly by the project and co-operating reservoir communities, and it requires continuous contact on the subject among the governmental and non-governmental organisations involved in natural resources management and administration.

Fisheries co-management presently established is of the advisory type. That is, users advise government on decisions to be taken and government endorses these decisions (Sen and Nielsen, 1996). However, there is so far no legally prescribed procedure which would compel government organisations to consult fishers, let alone to accept their advice as binding.14 Thus, co-management and its outcomes depend on the government's and its representatives' goodwill, comprehension and interest. There is no guarantee that co-management might not be interfered with or altogether cancelled as a result of some administrative vagary or other. Therefore, there is a need to legally back the sharing of responsibilities between the state and community in reservoir (and other natural) resources management.

14 Interestingly this is different with regard to catchment-wise integrated water resources management, where the creation of user groups (associações de vazanteiros) to be consulted has been guaranteed in the state's constitution (CNBB, 1996).

At present, IBAMA favours generally applicable, long-term and easily controllable rules. This contrasts with a great number of locality-specific regulations emanating from the co-management process. Such regulations frequently need to be adapted as a result of experiences made in the implementation of the rules. To allow for this diversity, fisheries legislation will have to shift its points of reference from set management parameters (such as specific dates and mesh sizes) to a prescribed management process which will ensure desirable outcomes.

Reservoir fishers are partly or wholly, though mostly informally, involved in most important management functions, with the exception of the major management task of rule enforcement. As no increase in enforcement activity by any of the government authorities concerned is likely to occur, the involvement of communities in enforcement has become necessary. IBAMA has created a special arrangement for community involvement in law enforcement, modelled along the lines of traditional forms of co-operation, called mutirão ambiental. Yet, this arrangement does not propose a qualitative change in enforcement policy, style or approach. Up to the present it is simply the recruitment and training of auxiliary personnel who, as volunteers, are expected to take on a difficult task which the organisation concerned can no longer perform. The project has thus suggested a new form of enforcement that emphasises action of the community through its associations, as opposed to individual enforcement agents. Its approach underlines the importance of systematic conflict resolution as opposed to enforcement as a source of revenue.

Fingerling supply from government sources is not likely to improve. Increased fingerling production from the existing as well as future installations will be absorbed by the rapidly growing and strongly supported fish culture industry in the state. Another outcome of this development will be a change in fish marketing, with reservoir fishers competing against significant production increase expected from the aquaculture sector. These developments might require more fundamental adjustments in fisheries legislation than the ones so far proposed and ratified.

There are good reasons to believe that access control by and limiting of access to local fishers will be beneficial for reservoir management. Apart from preventing the overexploitation of the fishery, it might also increase compliance with locally agreed management rules, and create an important incentive for community participation in reservoir stocking. The project is collecting information that will be used in the elaboration of proposals for a change in legislation, which, at present allows free access to public waters. In doing so, however, the project can not overlook the fact that free access in particular to reservoirs built with public funds is a long-standing and highly politicised demand of small rural producers. Nonetheless, physical access to the fishery is only one form of access to the resource's value. Another is the access to an increasingly exigent market. This is where benefit maximisation activities become important with the aim of improving product supply, quality and diversification.

Establishing co-management in natural resource use is a long and hard task. Its ups and downs, its successes and failures contribute, however, to a product which does not appear among the project's declared objectives: the fostering of citizens' awareness, or cidadania. This result, which is an essential ingredient of a democratisation process still in the making, might indeed be the most important project achievement of all


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