Our work with PNG's shark and ray fishery has led to new biodiversity discoveries and will support sustainable management of the fishery into the future.

The challenge

Balancing livelihoods and sustainability

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), many species of sharks and rays have high cultural importance as well as being a valuable commercial resource and food source. Sharks and rays comprise the country’s fifth largest export fishery. But many some of these species are slow growing and vulnerable to overfishing.

The people of PNG had a lack of information to balance supporting livelihoods with managing the fisheries sustainably. We set out to understand the biology and ecology of the shark and rays that are harvested in PNG as well as the social and economic climate.

Silvertip shark photographed near New Britain Island.  ©Steve Jones

Our response

Understanding the shark and ray fishery in PNG

Working with local communities, researchers and the PNG Government, we surveyed sharks and rays in the marine waters surrounding PNG.  We sent observers on commercial boats and conducted coastal fisheries surveys to find out what species local people were catching and how important those species were to their livelihoods.

We looked at the status of stocks, age, growth and reproductive status for a variety of species. We found some species are at risk of decline, while other populations are quite healthy.

The results

Building capacity for sustainable management of sharks and rays

As a result of this work, the number known species of sharks and rays in PNG’s marine waters has increased from around 90 to 132, including 10 newly named species. The most important outcome was providing management options for the PNG National Fisheries Authority to put into place to ensure shark and rays are managed sustainably into the future.

We published a report  on the socioeconomic and biological characteristics of PNG’s shark and ray fisheries to enable PNG to manage its shark and ray resources sustainably.

We also published the first dedicated field guide to the sharks and rays of PNG. Sharks and Rays of Papua New Guinea brings together new research, information from scientific publications and information other disparate sources, making it easily accessible.

The project has built capacity in PNG for managing fisheries sustainably and provided resources for generations to come. The results are also import for Australian fisheries managers, particularly for larger pelagic sharks with shared stocks between Australia and PNG.

This work was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), CSIRO and the PNG National Fisheries Authority and carried out in collaboration with James Cook University, doMar Research, University of Papua New Guinea.

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