FISHING WITH BARBASCO (THE FISH POISON)
To carry out the fishing with fish poison is a common habit of the Shuar people; it is one of the many fishing techniques that they have elaborated. It is carried out in big rivers, which are fished entirely. To fish in a big river they proceed in following order. The adults generally are those that organize, direct their children to make fish poison; the following day, a minga (communal work) is organized to put the fish poison, in quantity corresponding to the size of river. In the preparation of fish poison participate all: men, women and children. They flatten it hitting with sticks and wash it into the river. Those in charge of washing are generally the men. The women, accompanied by an old man, concentrate on harvesting stoned fish. After throwing away the fish poison, all meet down the courant to pick up the fish. It is shared among all equally. In these famous fishing participate a lot of people of different sex and age.
At the present time this form of fishing goes disappearing. The fishing in which participated all has decreased now to a family fishing. Each one looks for the form of subsisting and they only fish for the family.
The fish poison has a narcotic and debilitating power on the fish, without killing them and leaving intact its eggs. I have several testimonies that sustain that the fish poison doesn't kill the fish, but rather the sporin that contains produces foam when entering in contact with the water and it paralyzes the fish. At the beginning all are paralyzed, but those that are in the deep pools and those that have not been picked up, revive. For that reason the use of the fish poison during several centuries has not impoverished the wealth of rivers.
The plants that the Shuar use for the fish poison are: timiu (roots), masu (leaves), payash (another type of timiu) and mayu. The most used are timiu and masu, the most common.