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Yellofin tunas caught in PNG
Yellofin tunas caught in PNG
Courtesy of NFA

Ecosystem approach to tuna and shark fisheries management in Papua New Guinea

The Western Central Pacific (WCP) is one of the most important areas globally for tuna fisheries, producing a large share of the world catch of the main commercial tuna species, specifically skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore. Much of the catches in WCP occur around the equatorial divergence, an area of warm surface temperatures which has been characterized as a unique ecosystem. The boundaries of this province are dynamic and normally move eastward with El Niño and westward during La Ninã events, affecting tuna abundance and distribution in the region. Conservation issues of importance in the region include the overfishing of tuna stocks, and fisheries interactions with sea turtles, sharks and cetaceans. Since 2004, the conservation and management of tunas and other highly migratory stocks in the Western Central Pacific has become the mandate of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Located at the core of the tuna fishing grounds in the Western Central Pacific, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has an active and important tuna fishing industry. In oceanic waters three main types of fisheries interact: purse seine, tuna longline and shark longline. Unlike many other Pacific island countries, in PNG sharks are targeted by a controlled longline fishery as well as comprising a significant component of bycatch from tuna longline vessels. In addition to the three main fleets, a new tuna hand-line pumpboat fishery is being developed under the government’s policies for increasing domestic benefits from tuna resources.

This case study was aimed at identifying, through a process of consultation with stakeholders, and based on the information available at PNG’s National Fisheries Authority (NFA), the main issues affecting the sustainability of tuna and shark fisheries of PNG. The case study was also aimed at using the available information to develop operational objectives for the fisheries and to identify priority areas for research and management. Two workshops with fishery officers and industry representatives were held, in 2006 and 2007, and studies were conducted on the economic costs and benefits of tuna fisheries in PNG and on the ecosystem impacts of FAD-associated purse seine fisheries. Results obtained so far with the case study are being used by NFA to establish a biological monitoring programme for tuna and shark fisheries.

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