Mapping the fishing boat fleet of the world’s largest freshwater fisheries river basin

Overexploitation of natural biological resources is ubiquitous worldwide and can only increase as human populations and per capita consumption are expected to grow substantially over the next three decades. When resources such as wild aquatic vertebrates account for much of the animal protein extracted by local communities, this can threaten local livelihoods and food security, as well as trade with urban centers. The 5.7 million km2 lowland Amazon contains the world’s largest inland freshwater fisheries, but there are no national or subnational large-scale data to describe the degree to which Amazonian rivers may be overfished by commercial or subsistence fishing boats, even within one order of magnitude. Nor do we know much about the size and volumetric capacity of all fishing boats that operate across Amazonian rivers and lakes. This project aims to estimate the fishing potential of the subsistence and/or commercial fleet of fishing boats across a vast region of the Brazilian Amazon. We will map three size classes of fishing boats stationed at small to large urban centers, which can be related to either the total fishing capacity of this boat fleet or the economic threshold below which fishing boats can no longer be financially viable. We will do this for three major river types — white-water, clear-water and black-water rivers — which fit the basin-wide geochemical gradient of nutrient availability and overall fish productivity in the Amazon. We will use high-resolution satellite imagery (pixel size ~1 m) which will combined with local interviews on the standing capacity of fishing boats and demographic data on urban and rural populations available from government sources based on Brazilian National Census statistics. We will also map the degree to which the environmental carrying capacity for fish stocks across different river basins has been degraded by deforestation in floodplain forest areas, and combine this information to geomorphological and hydrological data on Amazonian river basins. We expect this work will lead to a high-visibility paper in at least Nature Sustainability, or higher ranking journal (e.g. Science Advances). The MSc student taking up this project should be highly motivated, and interested in developing high-level geospatial quantitative skills and making a realistic impact in fisheries policy in developing countries such as Brazil. You will work with a remote sensing and GIS expert (PKB), a conservation macroecologist (J-CS) and a tropical conservation biologist who specializes on the leading policy issues in the Amazon (CAP).

Contact: Carlos A. Peres (, Peder Klith Bøcher (, Jens Christian Svenning

The project proposal has been submitted 18.09.2018.