Fishes link the Amazon. Giant catfish migrations connect the Brazilian estuary to the Andean headwaters, medium-size scaled fish swim from the rivers into the forests during the rainy season, and the importance of fish as a food and income source connect peoples to the rivers. This makes them important indicators of river connectivity and ecosystem health, as well as crucial for the survival of Amazonian peoples and culture.
Yet, the information we need to know about fish in order to sustainably manage them eludes us – appropriate integrated river basin management requires communication and data collection in vast, remote areas, followed by analyses that are then effectively communicated to multiple stakeholders, from local communities to global policy makers.
Considering the great environmental challenges posed by infrastructure development and overfishing throughout the region, the overwhelming nature of this large spatial scale is further exacerbated by the lack of convincing ecological models and limited monitoring by government institutions. In the face of this challenge, citizen science can bridge this information gap and at the same time empower the peoples of the region.
Millions in the Amazon make daily observations that could be valuable for science, for example, noting the fish they catch and the fish they buy at the markets. By calling on citizens, we can generate data that spans the basin, while creating avenues through which individual and organized citizens can contribute to science and conservation in the Amazon, allowing for decisions to be better informed by the on-the-ground reality.