The Upper Madeira fisheries region includes the large drainage area in Bolivia, Peru and Brazil above the Madeira rapids. The main tributaries of this region are the Mamoré, Beni and Guaporé rivers.
The human population in this region is relatively small, though Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia at the periphery is growing rapidly and may soon have more than one million people. Fisheries are minimal near Santa Cruz and it is not included here. The main cities with fishing ports are Guajará-Mirim in Brazil; Puerto Villarroel, Trinidad, Cachuela Esperanza, Riberalta and Guayaramerín in Bolivia; and Puerto Maldonado in Peru on the Rio Madre de Dios. Excluding Santa Cruz the total population is approximately 300,000 and the total potential fishery catch is 2,700 tons.
The Mamoré River rises in the Bolivian Andes and most of this Madeira tributary is in Bolivia. Bolivian fishermen exploit mainly the middle part of the Mamoré Basin, centering on the cities of Puerto Villarroel and Trinidad, with 60,000 and 80,000 people, respectively. The potential catch of these two cities is about 38% of the total Upper Madeira region.
The lower Mamoré River is shared between Brazil and Bolivia. On the Brazilian side Guajará-Mirim is the most important fishing port; directly across the river from it is Guayaramerín in Bolivia. Each city has approximately 40,000 people and together they account for 41% of total potential catch of the Upper Madeira.
Beni River headwaters rise in the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes. The Madre de Dios River, the Rio Beni’s largest tributary, has its headwaters mostly in Peru. The most important fishing port of the Beni River is the Cachuela Esperanza, a small village located at the last of the Madeira’s upstream cataracts. Riberalta, with 80,000 people and located at the confluence of the Beni and Rio Madre de Dios rivers, is the other important fishing port city of the Rio Basin. The main fishing port of the Madre de Dios River is the Peruvian city of Puerto Maldonado, with a population of 50,000. The potential catch of the above three cities represents 16% of that of the Upper Madeira region. The Guaporé River rises mostly on the Brazilian Shield and Pimenteiras, with 80,000 people in the state of Rondônia, Brazil, is the only significant fishing port. Fish delivered to Pimenteiras account for no more than 2% of the total Upper Madeira catch.
Most statistical data of the fish landing composition of the Upper Madeira region are from Trinidad (Bolivia) and Puerto Maldonado (Peru). In the 1990s surubim and tambaqui accounted for more than 93% of the total catch of Trinidad. Most of the tambaqui catch consisted of very large adult fish; in other regions of the Amazon mostly young tambaqui are captured. Species composition of Puerto Maldonado fisheries of the Madre de Dios River in Peru at the end of the 1990s was more diversified than that of Trinidad in Bolivia. In Puerto Maldonado six species accounted for 90% of the total potential catch. Curimatã was the most important species, accounting for approximately 25% of the total catch. The other species were mostly large migratory catfishes that together represented 50% of the total catch. Pirapitinga and tambaqui accounted for 12% of the total and these were all large adult fish.