Amazonian fish in Brazil

With its immense tropical area with lots of rivers and lakes, Brazil has very good conditions for freshwater aquaculture. As the fishing industry cannot satisfy the domestic demand for fish and shrimps, the farming of species like tilapia, catfish, carp and round fishes increases year after year. Of these species, tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) farming is the most consolidated and therefore has its own species page. Official figures are unknown but several private and public authorities estimate that in 2014 the total production of farmed tropical fish species like pirarucu (Arapaima gigas) and tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) exceeded 186,000 tonnes, although this is not seen in FAO statistics. All Brazilian states practice some type of fish farming. Almost each region has a favorable climate, large rivers, several reservoirs and due to a good infrastructure close to the large consumer markets like São Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. However, 2014 was characterized by a severe drought, which especially hit the state of São Paulo. Researchers are saying that it was the worst drought in the last 100 years. As result, it is estimated that the harvest of Amazonian species declined by 30% compared to 2013 figures. Other important regions for aquaculture are Paraná, Ceará, Paulo Afonso and Goiás. Rondana and Mato Grosso are quite focused on the farming of tambaqui, with a total production estimated at 40,000 tonnes. Carps, catfishes, and pirarucu have also contributed to the Brazilian fish farming activities.

Amazonian fish

Sourcing news

Amazonian fish production and export statistics

Species wise production

Source: FAO (2017)

Since 2010 there has been no Brazilian authority that has kept the statistics on national fishing practices, so only FAO data is used. Overall, it is believed that during the last 10 years there has been an average increase of 8% per year on the Brazilian fish farming activities, which is likely to continue in the coming years as long as there are no more severe droughts.

Production per region 2014

Source: Since there has been no Brazilian authority that kept statistics on national fishing practices, the graph only show numbers for 2014 estimated by private and public authorities.

All Amazonian regions have a favorable climate, big rivers and lots of reservoirs. Most of the production and consumption of the farmed species (except for tilapia) are located in the north, midwest regions and in some states of the Northeast Region of Brazil. However, production in Rondonia and Mato Grosso has increased sharply recently due to a new aquaculture strategy in large, already existing ponds that have allowed for an increase in production area with minimum extra investments.

Export markets (2016)

Source: Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre,

The United States is so far the biggest importer of Brazilian Amazonian fish. However, please note that these figures also contain marine fish export volumes, as these are found under the same HS code. This mostly makes a difference for United States figures, as their export volumes contain a lot of frozen red snapper, about 3,215 tonnes in 2016, which reduces the US share significantly. The United Kingdom, France and China also import some container loads, but these are very low volumes, around 2 tonnes. Due to its large population and relatively limited fish farming activities, Brazil is currently a net importer of seafood. The domestic demand is still much bigger than Brazil can offer from their own fishing and aquaculture industry.

Export products in 2016 (tonnes)

Source: Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre,

Frozen snapper export volumes have been taken from this figure. Currently, there are virtually no exports of farmed fish to Europe at the moment. However, pirarucu (Arapaima gigas) and some other Amazonian species could be of interest for some specialized European importers as the big size of the fish makes it ideal for making portions, slices and big fillets. However, pirarucu still hasn’t it permission to be exported to Europe as the species in the wild has an endangered status. As long as farmers can’t assure the sustainable way of farming, i.e. not take wild fingerlings for farming purposes, it is not possible to achieve this permit.

Do you want to know which exporters are already exporting Amazonian fish? Get in touch.

Risk assessment

Environmental risks

  • Loss of biodiversity. As aquaculture in Brazil is growing, the number of ponds is increasing, contributing to the deterioration of the natural Amazonian surroundings.
  • Water pollution. The Brazilian institutions control the pollution of the water quite intensively but the smaller farmers are particularly difficult to control.
  • Entry of diseases and waste from upstream villages and minings.
  • Erosion.

Social risks

  • Workers safety and rights on farms and in processing plants.
  • Informality and corruption in governmental institutions, lack of association.
  • Neighbourhood and tribe conflicts.

Quality and supply chain risks

  • Lack of processing plants in all Amazon farming areas (breaches of cold chain).
  • Slow governmental processes at all stages (documents, permits, export certificates, etc).
  • Limited number of companies with international certifications like GlobalG.A.P., ASC, BRC and IFS.
  • Lack of experience in export (short term minded commercial approach).

Species in Brazil

Click on the species and find out more about the species in Brazil