In the South Fly district of Papua New Guinea (PNG), the ATSEA-2 Project has been busy collecting data on fisheries and the use of fishing gear. Results of this process will inform the ongoing revision of project targets in 2023, particularly with regards to the issue of fish maw harvesting and improvements to fishing gear use in the region.

ATSEA-2 Project implementation in PNG first started in March 2021, although targets for PNG were already developed in the Project Document back in 2017. By the end of project, ATSEA-2 targets a reduction from two tonnes to one tonne of dried fish maw harvested, while 25% of around 2,700 fishing households will be using improved fishing gear. These targets, and the progress being made towards their completion, will need to be assessed and adjusted according to the latest data.

Until now, information on the volume of dried fish maw being harvested in South Fly has been scarce. This is why ATSEA-2 is currently collecting data to fill the information gap and provide a clearer picture of the impacts of fishing on various different species, including the price each species is fetching per kilo of dried fish maw. Total quantity of dried fish maw will be estimated from these figures, then the sustainable harvest level can be calculated prior to an end-of-project target for sustainable fish maw harvest being set.

The ATSEA-2 team interviewed local fishers to obtain information about the type of fishing gear that they use.

Similarly, there is also scant data on fishing gear being used in South Fly District. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the appropriate level of sustainable fishing gear use. Moreover, improved gear use was not clearly defined when setting the initial project targets. To address this issue, ATSEA-2 is collecting data on the types of gear being used in South Fly artisanal fisheries, to provide guidance for compliance with regulations and best practice.

The first set of data on fish maw was collected from participants in the 14 villagers attending an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) training session conducted by ATSEA-2 in Daru. The second set of fish maw data, along with the first data set on fishing gear use, has now been collected in the eastern coastal villages of Sui, Parama and Katatai.

The initial data indicate that a range of fish maw species are being harvested, ranging from high-value croaker (which can fetch up to K1,000) to catfish bladder (which sells for around K50). A study of 20 men and women revealed that each can sell a kilogram of dried fish maw per month.

The fishing gear survey conducted by ATSEA-2 revealed that most fishers use gillnets. This gear ranges in size, from three- to five-inch nets. None of the people questioned appear to use gillnets measuring more than 6 inches mesh size, which is  prohibited under the Barramundi Management Plan.

The survey will continue in 2023 until data is collected from the remaining 11 villages. After that, the volume of fish maw harvest and type of fishing gear use can be established, before resetting sustainability targets. To continue the process, field data collection on fish maw and fishing gear use in South Fly District has been scheduled to resume in January 2023.

By Kenneth Yhuanje