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Scientists develop PNG fishing spots

Scientists develop PNG fishing spots
The research team in the field. Photo: Dr Ian McLeod.
A team from James Cook University is trying to kick-start a sports fishing industry on the PNG coast that will provide sustainable livelihoods for local people.

JCU's multi-disciplinary team is focused on the Black Bass, one of the world's toughest fighting fish, found in coastal rivers and estuaries where it grows to more than 20 kilos.

JCU experts in marine science, ecology, business, tourism and social science have joined together to design a sustainable fishery that will benefit local people, many of whom live in extreme poverty.

Team leader, Professor Marcus Sheaves said the group is starting from scratch with the project.

"This is one of the big opportunities in science because it provides the opportunity to provide much-needed new income streams for local people while promoting environmental stewardship." he said. "It's a win-win situation for people and the environment."

The team has sponsorship and support from the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority (NFA) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Professor Sheaves said it was essential to understand the ecology of the fish and its reliance on healthy environments if the industry and the ecosystems that support it are to last in the longer term.

Its habitats will be mapped with sonar and its movements tracked by acoustic tags. Others in the group will make sure that the fishery is planned and managed properly, maximises community involvement and generates benefits for locals.

The marine scientists are currently conducting the acoustic tagging programme and collecting biological data on the fish in small and easily accessible river systems west of Port Moresby and in West New Britain.

The social science, economic, business and tourism team is working in the same areas to understand the livelihood costs and benefits of a sport fishing industry.

The next stage will see an expansion into the Western Province, where much bigger river systems are black bass strongholds and where findings from the smaller river systems can be tested.

The project is expected to run for ten years.

Link to Black Bass Project:


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