Giant, sustainable rainforest fish is now fashion in America

Giant, sustainable rainforest fish is now fashion in America


TRES RIOS, Brazil (AP) — Sometimes you start something and have no idea where it will lead. So it was with Eduardo Filgueiras, a struggling guitarist whose family worked in an unusual business in Rio de Janeiro: They farmed toads. Filgueiras figured out a way to take the small toad skins and fuse them together, creating something large enough to sell.

Meanwhile miles away in the Amazon, a fisherman and a scientist were coming up with an innovation that would help save a key, giant fish that thrives in freshwater lakes alongside Amazon River tributaries.

The ingenuity of these three men is why you can now find a beautiful and unusual sustainable fish leather in upscale New York bags, Texas cowboy boots and in a striking image from Rihanna’s Vogue pregnancy photo shoot, where a red, fish-scaled jacket hangs open above her belly. Sales provide a livable income to hundreds of Amazon families who also keep the forest standing and healthy while it protects their livelihood.


The leather is a byproduct of pirarucu meat, a staple food in the Amazon that is gaining new markets in Brazil’s largest cities.

Indigenous communities working together with non-Indigenous riverine settlers manage the pirarucu in preserved areas of the Amazon. Most of it is exported, and the U.S. is the primary market.

Pirarucu can grow to 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) in length. Overfishing endangered them. But things began to change when a settler fisherman, Jorge de Souza Carvalho, known as Tapioca, and academic researcher Leandro Castello teamed up in the Mamiraua region and came up with a creative way to count the fish in lakes, the giant fish’s favorite habitat.

They took advantage of something special about this species: It surfaces to breathe at least every 20 minutes. A trained eye...

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