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Sharks in Papua New Guinea - Research

Updated: May 30, 2023

Crew handle a shark onboard a Frabelle Tuna Purse Seiners according to the FIA PNG ETP good practices

As Sustainability & CSR Director, I am so glad to write a small article about sharks and share with our stakeholders that our FIA PNG association is collaborating with a research center in management measures development of silky sharks.

Starting with a personal note; since 1997, I have been diving, I remember the first time I saw a hammerhead shark in the Galapagos Islands in 2004, I was descending through the thermocline, clear water later after 30 meters in my second immersion that day, I saw a small group of six (6) Hammerhead sharks swimming harmoniously, free without any fear: I got nervous and I did a triple check in my gauges, I remembered I started to be hyperventilated – excited to see them. Since that day I love to see sharks during my diving around the globe, I also increase my awareness of the importance of these elasmobranchs in the Ocean ecosystem. Sharks keep food webs in balance and encourage biodiversity to flourish by feeding on those species that are most numerous, allowing other species a chance to also grow in number. Good ecosystems need biodiversity, and in turn, sharks are an important element of healthy biodiversity.

I also love to share this knowledge in global meetings, with friends, and with my family.

Another immersion that I remember was in South Africa, almost 1 hour away by speedboat from Cape Town, I was descending into a Kelp Forest (Sea Forest) so deep as much as 32 meters, we all were expecting to see the great white sharks, unfortunately, it did not happen, we only see happy seals playing around. But in Mauritius Islands in 2018 as soon as we jumped into the water around 12 meters depth, three (3) bull sharks swam around us, we were 4 divers including our dive master, and it was amazing how sharks were looking at us.

Divers or at least, I am not afraid to see sharks from the white tip, blacktip reef, bull sharks, and Caribbean sharks, they are spectacular creatures to admire when we are diving. In hundreds of dives, I have been lucky enough to see Sharks, I have never had a negative interaction. My favorite one is the Hammerhead Shark; it is my talisman and I have a pendant with me. Galapagos Islands is an example of a Marine reserve, home to nearly 3000 species. Even protected species are not safe from the devastation of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Over the past 50 years, Ocean sharks have collapsed, declining 70%. We need these predators, we need to re-think and see, sharks as endangered, not dangerous.

At the FIA PNG, we are a legal operation, follow regulations, like IUU regulations, PSMA compliance, having in place state of art internal requirements based on our RSP and our stakeholder independent monitoring, we are concerned and care about sharks.

In 2020 after achieving the Marine Stewardship MSC fishery certification of our fleet fishing in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) and Archipelagic Waters (AW), we got several conditions to improve the responsible management of our PNG tuna fishery. This year 2023, we have engaged in a partnership with a recognized Research center to address this MSC condition and improve our knowledge about sharks.

Research: Area-based management of silky shark bycatch in the MSC-certified PNG FIA tuna purse seine fishery

The PNG FIA fishery, in partnership with The Safina Center and a grant from the Marine Stewardship Council’s Science & Research Fund, is conducting research to explore the potential of static and dynamic area-based management to balance minimizing threatened species bycatch of silky sharks and other threatened species with maximizing target species catch. The study is analyzing observer program data to identify spatially and temporally predictable hot and cold spots for principal market species and threatened bycatch species to determine whether area management such enables separating target and threatened bycatch species. The research will enable PNG FIA to close a condition of certification against the MSC Fisheries Standard related to protected species impacts.

“This grant will enable the fishery to apply the most effective methods to determine whether area-based management has the potential to mitigate threatened species bycatch, thus further improving the fishery’s environmental performance,” - Marcelo Hidalgo, FIA PNG Sustainability Director.

While existing time-area measures for tuna purse seine fisheries are designed to support strategies for managing principal market species, the results of this study in the Papua New Guinea Fishing Industry Association’s MSC fishery have implications for the potential of area-based management to mitigate threatened species bycatch in global tuna purse seine fisheries.


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