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Tough fishing and severe seasonal food insecurity in Amazonian flooded forests

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>People and Nature
Issue number2
Volume2
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)468-482
Publication statusPublished
Early online date26/04/20
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

1. Billions of people rely on harvesting wildlife for food, and must contend with catch rates that vary in space (e.g. overharvesting near communities) and time (e.g. seasonal migrations). Yet, research has overlooked potential linkages between reduced wildlife catch rates (catch‐per‐unit‐effort) and food security. Moreover, assumptions that people living in biologically rich environments are food secure lack empirical testing. This is problematic given that food security rests on having stable access to sufficient food, rather than there being sufficient food.
2. We examine spatiotemporal variation in fish catch rates and perceived food security among rural communities in Amazonian flooded forests. We also assess social inequities in food insecurity. We used structured interviews to collect data on fishing, hunting, chicken and beef consumption, and perceptions of food security. We did so during 556 household visits along a spatial gradient (1,267 km) of commercial fishing pressure, during high‐ and low‐water seasons.
3. We provide the first empirical evidence of simultaneous seasonal crashes in wildlife catch rates and food insecurity. During the high‐water season, fish catch rates were 73% lower, and the probability of not eating for a whole day was four times higher. With a third of households skipping meals and a sixth not eating for a whole day during this season, food security can be classed as severe. However, less‐deprived households tended to avoid severe food insecurity. Fish catch rates and perceived food security did not vary along a spatial gradient of commercial overfishing. River‐dwelling Amazonians increased fishing and hunting efforts during the high‐water season, without eating more chicken and beef, emphasizing the importance of stable access to wild fish and bushmeat.
4. This study shows how wildlife catch rates and food security can crash seasonally and simultaneously, demonstrating the fallacies of environmental and social policies which assume stability of food availability in resource‐rich areas. Our results have implications for degraded habitats where falls in catch rates also occur. This suggests that overharvesting, as with other causes of reduced catch rates, could cause food insecurity in wildlife‐reliant populations.