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Story Publication logo January 20, 2022

‘Gold in the Sea’: How the Chinese Market, which has Turned Fish into Treasure, is Reshaping the Future of Amazon Coast (Chinese)


Piranha from the Amazon River. Image by Magdalena Paluchowska/Shutterstock. Brazil, date unknown.

In Brazil, fish maw exports have increased significantly.

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This story excerpt was translated from Chinese. To read the original story in full, visit The Initium. Our Rainforest Journalism Fund website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.

Claudio, a Brazilian man in his 50s, has been selling seafood for 30 years. He guts and cleans several fish to put on display. However, he leaves in the maw — the swim bladder, an air-filled organ that controls the fish’s buoyancy in the water. He neatly lays out the fish, their bladders visible. There is still blood surrounding the bladders and their shape is full. Locals won’t eat internal organs, but, he says, “customers see the fresh-looking maw and know the fish is also fresh.”

Fish maw from some species aren’t worth anything, while others sell for exorbitant prices. “They all get sold to China,” Claudio said.

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