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Describing the world's biggest shark fishery through fishers' knowledge and participation in scientific data collection

Jaiteh, V.F., Warren, C. and Loneragan, N.R. (2014) Describing the world's biggest shark fishery through fishers' knowledge and participation in scientific data collection. In: 2nd Sharks International Conference, 2 - 6 June, Durban, South Africa.

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Small-scale fisheries in Southeast Asia are often data-poor and mismanaged due to various factors, including a lack of governmental frameworks for management and the remoteness of fishing grounds. This is particularly problematic when the target species are highly vulnerable to fishing pressure and when there is a significant dependency on livelihoods derived from the fishery. We describe the Eastern Indonesian shark fishery from three case studies in the Halmahera, Aru-Arafura and Timor Seas. Through in-depth interviews with fishers and traders we traced the origins and development of shark fishing to build the context for assessing the fishery in its present state. Catch data collected by fishers were used to assess catch composition, length frequencies and maturity of the main target species. Fishers caught a diversity of sharks, including 31 species and eight taxa from species complexes. The most frequently caught species included endangered Shovelnose rays (Rhynobatidae) and Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna spp). Length, maturity and environmental data were recorded for 1,556 sharks, or 54% of the 2,873 sharks caught during the study. Interview data revealed changes in fishing grounds, gears and catch composition since the mid-1980s. Older fishers who had been in the fishery for over a decade generally observed greater changes in the fishery than fishers who were younger or had entered the fishery after 2003. High value species such as guitarfish (Rhynchobatidae) and shovelnose rays appear to have experienced drastic declines since the mid-‘90s, and several fishers observed an overall decline in the size of captured sharks during the last 10-15 years. These results demonstrate that fisher participation in data collection allows for basic assessments of data-poor species and identification of management priorities, particularly in fisheries thought to have significant environmental impact and socioeconomic importance, but which lack an established process for scientific data collection.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
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