Recap and Significance of Brazilian Fish Mortality Event

Fish mortality events at hydropower plants are a critical issue in the Neotropical region and are worrisome to scientists, local communities, environmental practitioners, and the energy sector. Despite being considered a renewable energy source, hydropower operation has killed 128 tonnes of fish in the last ten years in Brazil, owing hundreds of millions of dollars in fines to the companies. These were the results published in a recent report available here.

The report is part of a research project co-led by the Federal University of São João del-Rei (UFSJ), Brazil and the University of Southampton, in the UK. The study was funded by a joint call between the British Council – Newton Fund and the Foundation for Research Support of Minas Gerais State (Fapemig). It is aimed at shedding light into a major impact caused by hydropower plants in the Neotropical region, which is the silent and veiled fish mortality caused by hydropower operation.

Although the numbers are astonishing, the report suggests it is greatly underestimated. The report informs that Belo Monte Dam, in the Xingu River, alone killed over 16 tonnes of fish during the stage of reservoir filling. Sinop Dam registered the mortality of over 13 tonnes of fish due to operational procedures.

The issue reported urges for immediate actions and the event ‘Fish Mortality at Hydropower Plants: identifying problems and co-creating solutions’ was aimed at initiating a discussion with multiple stakeholders to provide for well-informed decision-making processes and management actions. The event had over 800 people registered from across the globe (Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Malawi, Ghana and so on) and municipalities in Brazil (from North to South).

If you missed the event, do not worry. You can watch the recording here.

The second part of the event involved a closed meeting with representatives of Federal and State Environmental Agencies, Federal and State Attorney, hydropower operators, NGO’s and scientists. The Dam Removal Europe coalition was represented by Pao Fernández Garrido from World Fish Migration Foundation, who talked about some European dam removal policies, to encourange river barrier removal implementation in the near future in Brazil . The meeting aimed at discussing strategies with these stakeholders to develop a Plan of Actions to be implemented until 2025 with the goal of paving the way for initiatives that can contribute to mitigating the problem.


Luiz G. M. Silva

ETH-Zurich, Stocker Lab