Paiche (Arapaima gigas)

About the Paiche 

The paiche, also known as pirarucu, is one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world, reaching a maximum of 4.5 meters in length and 200 kilograms in weight. The paiche lives in rivers, nearby lakes and swamps of South America's Amazon Basin. One of the most fascinating things about this fish is that it surfaces to breathe air! It takes advantage of this trait to live in waterways where other fish can’t survive because the water is too oxygen-poor. Adult males play an unusual reproductive role by incubating tens of thousands of eggs in their mouths, guarding them aggressively and moving them when necessary. The paiche represents an important food and protein source for humans living in the Amazon Basin.

Status and threats

The paiche is listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN RedList, due to inadequate information to make an assessment of its extinction risk. However, studies indicate that the major threat for the paiche is overfishing. Its tendency to stay near the water's surface makes it vulnerable to hunters who can easily target it with harpoons. In the 1960s, following two centuries of extensive hunting, the paiche started to become scarce, and by the 1970s was commercially extinct in the vicinity of most major Amazonian cities.