, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 453–465 | Cite as

The invisibility of fisheries in the process of hydropower development across the Amazon

  • Carolina Rodrigues da Costa Doria
  • Simone Athayde
  • Elineide E. Marques
  • Maria Alice Leite Lima
  • Jynessa Dutka-Gianelli
  • Mauro Luis Ruffino
  • David Kaplan
  • Carlos E. C. Freitas
  • Victoria N. Isaac


We analyze the invisibility of fisheries and inadequacy of fishers’ participation in the process of hydropower development in the Amazon, focusing on gaps between legally mandated and actual outcomes. Using Ostrom’s institutional design principles for assessing common-pool resource management, we selected five case studies from Brazilian Amazonian watersheds to conduct an exploratory comparative case-study analysis. We identify similar problems across basins, including deficiencies in the dam licensing process; critical data gaps; inadequate stakeholder participation; violation of human rights; neglect of fishers’ knowledge; lack of organization and representation by fishers’ groups; and lack of governmental structure and capacity to manage dam construction activities or support fishers after dam construction. Fishers have generally been marginalized or excluded from decision-making regarding planning, construction, mitigation, compensation, and monitoring of the social–ecological impacts of hydroelectric dams. Addressing these deficiencies will require concerted investments and efforts by dam developers, government agencies and civil society, and the promotion of inter-sectorial dialogue and cross-scale participatory planning and decision-making that includes fishers and their associations.


Amazon Dams Environmental policy Fishers Freshwater fisheries Governance Hydropower Inland tropical fisheries Licensing 



We would like to thank the fishers and the fishers’ organizations from the Madeira, Xingu, Uatumã and Tocantins watersheds for their collaboration. Research informing this article was supported by CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior), through the PROAMAZÔNIA/CAPES (Project No.: 021/2012); the PGCI/CAPES - International Cooperation Project (Project No.: 038/2013); and the Science Without Borders/PVE Project (Process No. 88881.064958/2014-01). We also thank CAPES and CNPq for scholarship support provided to graduate students and post-doctoral researchers involved in this study (CRCD: 201457/2014-8; MALL 7487-14-2). Thanks to the Universidade Federal de Rondônia (UNIR), Universidade Federal do Tocantins (UFT) to the Tropical Conservation and Development Program (TCD) and to the Center for Latin American Studies at University of Florida (UF) for the support. Finally, we acknowledge the support provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the Amazon Dams Network/ Rede Barragens Amazônicas (ADN/RBA) under Grant No. 1617413. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Ichthyology and Fisheries - Department of Biology, Graduate Program in Environment and Regional Development (PGDRA)Federal University of RondôniaPorto VelhoBrazil
  2. 2.Amazon Dams Network, Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American StudiesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Graduate Program in Environmental Sciences. Department of BiologyFederal University of TocantinsPorto NacionalBrazil
  4. 4.Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program, School of Forest Resources and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  5. 5.GSA Consulting Environment LtdaRua Jornalista Umberto Calderaro FilhoManausBrazil
  6. 6.Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment, Department of Environmental Engineering SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  7. 7.Department of Fisheries SciencesFederal University of AmazonasManausBrazil
  8. 8.Department of Fishery Engineering – Faculty of Agriculture SciencesFederal University of AmazonasManausBrazil
  9. 9.Fisheries Biology and Aquatic Resources Management LaboratoryFederal University of Pará – UFPABelémBrazil

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