Eco Tourism - Solution or just another problem?

As you might already have realized, the earth right now is sick, sick and tired of us humans. I mean, we have a very strong tendency to fuck shit up and we're doing it big time at the moment. We simply destroy nature on which nothing less than all our lifes depend on. Add social media which instantly and always can show you others that have more of something than you. So, it appears that people get even more reckless and caring less about their environment just to get another thing to impress people they don’t even care about and vice versa. Since long it's well known that the various rainforests and jungles worldwide are under constant threat by greedy assholes who exploit and destroy the precious flora and fauna. 

So, it shouldn't come by surprise that the region we visited is in a critical state too.

First of all, there’s a lot of illegal mining going on which pollutes the river with chemicals and destroys nature to get access and building camps for the miners. 

Besides that, this zone is also said to be campground to various members of FARC and Guerilla. On top of all this comes a worldwide problem, climate change which, among other things, has a huge impact on this fragile environment as it dramatically interrupts and changes the natural weather cycles on which plants, animals and the native indigenous people used to rely on for centuries. 

These are all serious, big problems which could fill hours of documentaries. But this project here is dedicated to Peacock Bass and I honestly know better about these fish than such complex topics. To come to a point, all the before mentioned problems also have impact on the Peacock Bass as they are part of the whole jungle. 

The indigenous people in this region, known as Puinave used to live for centuries mostly in small communities in the jungle and functioned as self-caterer, they lived from what the jungle would provide and were in balance with nature. 

As bad people started to conquer and destroy the jungle, the environment of the Puinaves got smaller and resources scarcer. On the other hand, they got access to modern medicine and technology which results in population growth and the desire for more. Less space/food but more people, clearly not a combination destined for a sustainable future… Why this is relevant? Peacock Bass have always been important for the Puinave, as valuable food source being one of their reasons. As long as they lived in peace and fished only what’s needed, the Peacock Bass populations were thriving.

The introduction of fishing nets brought fatal change as only a couple of nets can be enough to fish a whole lagoon empty and take heavy toll on a Peacock Bass population. Fishing habits changed from taking only as much as necessary on a daily basis to empty out whole areas in order to sell the fish for a profit. The so-called progress in form of, for example, access to modern technology also introduced a lot of problems to these communities and with it the need for money. At the same time, rivers and jungles are exploited on continuously raising extents.

You might start to understand why, for the last couple of years, I did everything possible to get another fishing trip together, season after season. Because I’m deeply concerned that soon there won’t be any good Peacock Bass fishing no more…


But, all is not yet lost and there are solutions to secure the joy of Peacock Bass fishing for years to come while protecting the jungle too but that requires the collaboration and trust between all interest groups as well as enough respect to the indigenous people who open up their river to people from the outside.

Our adventure was actually not only a very complicated fishing trip but also served as a test run for an upcoming eco-tourism project in this zone. Andres from the big city of Bogota teamed up with Andres, native Puinave and elected tourism coordinator for his community. Together they want to establish sustainable eco-tourism in this far-off region in order to create a sustainable income source for the indigenous people living there which doesn’t destroy their environment but also serves a motivator to conserve it. A very ambitious project which will have to overcome lots of difficulties but well organised and supervised, I am positive that it could be a huge benefit to the whole region of Guiania and even serve as role model for similar projects in different parts of the river.

Andres reached out to Fish Colombia for advice, Beto from Fish Colombia then asked me to join, I then realized that it might be a good idea to film the whole thing so I asked Adrien to join me and THAT’s how we ended up on this trip! 


To conclude this, here are my thoughts on this topic. Keep in mind that I don't know everything about the situation there nor do I want to claim that I do. Everything I wrote here is entirely based on my experiences there, articles I read and stories that I got told from people in this region. So I might be wrong in some cases or/and don't have the full understanding for certain areas. 

Fact is, that over the last years I spent quite a few weeks in jungle, on different rivers and talked to various people, indigenous as well as operators and local people from the towns close by as well as different people from this tourist industry. 

In my opinion, fishing camps and eco tourism in these regions can be a great opportunity for all parties if executed the right way. Such a camp or lodge can indeed be a great opportunity for the locals to earn the necessary money in order to keep up their traditional life in the jungle. But they need to get a proper explanation why a living fish is worth way more than if said fish ends up in a net and later on the market. Remember that a fish still means food for them and isn't a fun challenge and picture opportunity like for us tourists. 

At the same time they should still be able to keep fish for their food like they're doing since generations. I know from experience how hard it can be to explain the problems of overfishing to people that lived their whole life on a river which always had enough fish and other resources to feed the whole community. But when you add something new like net fishing which does a lot of damage even over little time or also a fishing camp which brings in lots of extra fishing pressure, things can change real quick. To for-see such problems before its too late requires long term thinking which is not really a thing with indigenous people. I don't mean this in a disrespectful way at all, that's just my observation and it's also very understandable if you realise how these people live their lifes, especially before tourists or other problematic factors arrived in their habitat. 

The main responsibility, I feel, is still with the operators and also the tourist/visitors as we should know better from past experiences where precious parts of nature got destroyed by greed before! I do understand that the operator need to make a certain amount of money in order to keep such operations up and running but I think it's important to always try to keep nature first. You can't just fill these camps up with as much anglers as possible and let them fish over these, sometimes very limited, areas week after week after week without letting those fish rest. More boats means more noise on the rivers/lagoons which I assume means lots of stress for the fish. Catching and release them most probably stresses them even more. 

Also the deals with the indigenous who allow those fishing camps should be fair for both parties so that it is in the interest of both to keep the operation up while taking great care of the nature itself. 

Last but not least if we as tourists get the privilege to fish such a fragile environment we should respect everything and everyone while there since we are nothing but guests there. Respect the local people, never ever leave any trash and also take care of the fish you catch! Most people seem to care not much about the fish after the caught it, holding it out of the water for minutes, letting them hang from lipgrips, letting them fall into the boat because they're too dumb to hold it properly, transporting fish around for the perfect pictures etc. I myself want good pictures too but if at the moment of landing certain poses or backgrounds or whatever aren't possible/there then I just try to get the best picture out of the given situation to quickly let the fish back into the water. Because how can you tell the locals not to kill fish while you risk killing a fish just for the sake of taking a picture to show off?! And remember, not all fish that swim away will survive!


So yes, I think a fishing / eco tourism lodge can be a great opportunity for the long-term sustainable preservation of certain primeval forest sections BUT only if everyone puts in some effort, puts away its greed and RESPECTS the other parties AND nature alike! 


I may make it sound easy and I know there are a lot of difficulties in the implementation of such projects but i still try to believe that the good will overcome the bad and that we won't fuck everything up completely! 

I guess that's why I'm just a regular guest, writing stuff like this and not an operator...


Thanks for reading!



facebook project bassthumb fishing blog
projectbassthumb instagram
flickr project bassthumb fishing pictures