The Brazilian-Colombian-Peruvian Border fisheries region centers on the Upper Amazon River (Solimões) in Brazil and extends from the Japurá River in Brazil to just east of Leticia, Colombia. This region also includes the Lower Rio Putumayo-Içá. There are four important fishing ports: Leticia, capital of the state of Amazonas, Colombia; Tabatinga, Brazil; and Benjamin Constant and Fonte Boa in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Leticia and Tabatinga have approximately 40,000 inhabitants each and the other cities of the region have fewer than 30,000 people.
The fisheries in this region are characterized by the international interaction between the three countries involved, with Leticia serving as the main fishery port. Fish from Leticia was exported by plane to Bogotá as early as the 1950s. There is considerable commerce between Leticia, Colombia and Tabatinga, Brazil, with fish transported from the latter to former legally and illegally. To avoid duplication of fishery statistics, the data from Leticia and Tabatinga have been combined. Maximum catches were approximately 12,000 tons for the Brazilian-Colombian-Peruvian Border fisheries region, with 98% of the total sold in Leticia.
The commercial fisheries along the 116 km of the Amazon River shared by Peru and Colombia are coordinated by an agreement between the two countries. Fishermen from the respective countries exploit the same places, but at different times preventing international conflicts. Peruvian fishermen from as far west as Pebas also sell fish in Leticia.
The Upper Brazilian Amazon (Solimões) and Japurá rivers and Içá rivers are exploited by Brazilian fishermen. The Caquetá River is exploited only by Colombian fishermen and the Putumayo River is exploited by Colombian and Peruvian fishermen. The main port of the Caquetá River is La Pedrera and in the Putumayo River it is Puerto Leguizamo, both in Colombia. Most fish are captured with drifting gill nets in river channels or with trotlines and hand lines. Large catfishes are the most important species. Harpoons are also used in the rapids of the Caquetá River. Fish are transported to Leticia in small iceboxes. Annual fish catches of the Caquetá River and Rio Putumayo-Içá River in the Brazilian-Colombian-Peruvian Border fisheries region are about 200 tons.
The commercial fishery on the Brazilian side occurs mainly in the Amazon (Solimões) River and less so in the Japurá River and Içá River. Brazilian fishermen sell their catches to small fish plants along the Amazon River (Solimões) or to boats with iceboxes. Large boats in Brazil also take fish to Leticia. Despite the fish trade between fishermen and fish plants in the three countries, none of the countries recognizes this activity as international commerce. Brazil accounts for approximately 82% of the fish sold in Leticia; Peru for 11%; and Colombia for 7%.
Eleven species represent about 90% of the total catch sold in Leticia, but large catfishes (piraíba, dourada, and surubim) are by far the most important, representing three-fourths of the total catch. The annual yield of piraíba in Leticia ranged from almost 4,000 tons in 1983 to nearly nothing in 2000, suggesting a serious overexploitation of this species. The maximum yield of piraíba probably occurred before accurate data were collected and may be higher than present estimates. By 1991, the dourada catch of the border region surpassed that of piraíba, at which time it reached its limit. After that, dourada catches decreased and those of surubim increased. The maximum yield of surubim has apparently not yet been reached in the border region.