The fishing practices of the marine aquarium fisher determine the difference between sustainable reef resource use and coral reef degradation. The SEASMART Program, specifically the Fisher & Fishery Development Division (FFD), is tasked with activities directed towards conducting aquarium fishery training and fisher monitoring in selected Fishery Management Areas of Papua New Guinea. Training is conducted where resource assessment of target aquarium species depicts a considerably collectable abundance and diversity within their local coastal resource boundaries. The Fisher & Fishery Development Division (FFD) undertakes greater responsibility in the actual technical perspective of the project with continuous focus on capacity building, prioritizing on the skills, techniques and materials used during aquarium resource fishing. The gear and materials used and skills transferred to local fishers directly reflect sustainability of coastal resources in the area. Also in the manner of such approach, quality of aquarium fishing in the FMA is maintained at a reasonably higher level. The FFD division has a continuous monitoring regime to maintain the highest quality and sustainability in all Fishery Management Area (FMA).
In strengthening the selection of fishers further, a questionnaire was designed and agreed upon by the SEASMART Program for the purpose of attaining interested and skilled local fishers to participate in the marine aquarium trade in coastal villages of PNG. It is based on having an understanding and knowledge of details concerning fisher participants. Its purpose is to create a common understanding between fishers and the SEASMART Program along with the National Fisheries Authority in encouraging a sustainable measure of marine aquarium fishing.
The main goal of this selection criteria is to examine individual local fisher participants in some personal skills and general details. Selecting fishers using this criteria also helps in choosing credible individuals who will be committed to the completion of the training program and hopefully in the future.
The Marine Aquarium Trade is something that is unheard of in PNG even though it has been done in other countries such as the Philippines and the neighboring Solomon Islands. Most of Papua New Guinea’s coastal population rely heavily on the sea for their livelihood and generally,are skilled fishers. Thus general fishing is done at two levels; (1) the Artisanal fishing and (2) Commercial fishing. Artisanal fishing involves only a few fishers using simple fishing gear and equipment, while commercial fishing is usually on a large scale where fishing industries are involved using modern technologies and equipment. Also the fishing methods applicable in each category vary to a greater extent depending on the scale and degree of equipment and fishing gear being used, as well as the manpower needed. Some, if not most, of the fishing methods applied in commercial fishery are usually destructive and unsustainable, regardless of the fact that management regulations are there to safeguard the exploitation of marine resources.
Aquarium Fishery on the other hand is different from these two fishing categories mentioned thus far. It is sort of a hobby or interest that has become widespread in more developed countries such as the US, Europe and many others beside. To put it simply, the marine organisms collected are for the sole purpose of keeping them as pets in storage water tanks called the Aquarium. Thus special skills and knowledge are needed to capture these marine aquarium organisms, which are usually fish and invertebrates that can perform better in artificial environments away from their natural habitats.
The SEASMART Program through the National Fisheries Authority is the first to introduce the aquarium fishery project in PNG, in which, Central Province became the trial site for this project. The sites selected for Central Province for this project were named as Fishery Management Areas (FMA) and fishers were selected from these FMAs and trained in various skills and techniques required before they were certified as marine aquarium fishers. Usually, the training is carried out for a period of two weeks consisting of both theory and practical aspects to it. The theory or the classroom training educate fishers in topics such as species indentification, proper documentation and handling techniques. The practical aspect requires in-water training where fishers are taught the proper ways of using fishing nets and gear in collecting aquarium fish and invertebrates. They are also taught the basic methods of constructing their own fishing gear by using only the materials as deemed necessary.
The Importance of fisher training
The training was the first ever of its kind anywhere in the world to be conducted here in Papua New Guinea. Since aquarium fishery is a first of its kind to be introduced in PNG, fishers had to learn the basic skills and techniques required for this type of fishery. Thus the Fisher & Fishery Development division of the SEASMART Program accomplishes this by employing skilled trainers to train local fishers who meet the selection criteria.
During training, fishers are equipped with the skills and knowledge that are relevant to aquarium fishery such as the art of net making, identification of marine aquarium species, post-harvesting and handling techniques. It is a ten-part teaching module that outlines everything that fishers ought to learn by heart and how to apply them in practice. This is important to ensure and maintain a high standard and quality of fish and invertebrates being traded.
By fulfilling this obligation of disseminating information, skills and techniques to fishers concerning the know-how of aquarium fishery, the SEASMART Program ensures that the proper fishing practices are carried out so that no damage is done to the coral reef (marine ecosystems) and the environment as a whole. Thus it is the aim of the marine aquarium trade to emphasize sustainability in fishing practices and exploitation of marine resources at all levels whether locally, nationally or globally. Thus the purpose of fisher training can be summed up in the following manner:
- Fishers are empowered to apply proper fishing practices in a sustainable manner.
- Fishers are equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills required in aquarium fishery.
What it takes to train a fisher
It takes 6 to 12 months for a trainee fisher to be fully skilled and to master the techniques and the methods in post harvest and handling, fish identification, segregation, packing and transportation process. To improve, fishers should only focus and apply the methodology that they were taught during the ten-day intense training and to continue performing what they have learned during the training period.
Extension activities such as monitoring and refresher training are conducted at certain periods during the course of the fishing period in selected FMAs. These activities are directed toward enhancing the opportunity for fishers to gain more knowledge and skills from skilled trainers.
Overall, aquarium fishing as an introduced fishery in PNG, takes a considerable amount of time and preparation for the execution of specific tasks and to comply with requirements outlined to be a fully trained fisher.
Recording and logbook keeping
The principal purpose of record keeping is to keep track of all transactions that take place between fishers and exporters for every order placed to each of the established Fishery Management Area (FMA). In the long run, this will help minimize misunderstandings that may arise and ensure a better working relationship between the fishers, the SEASMART Program and the exporters. Furthermore, it is a working requirement that must be fulfilled before the SEASMART Program can certify fishers according to the standards of aquarium fishery as set.
Record keeping is important for fishers, the National Fisheries Authority, the SEASMART Program and other stakeholders so that they know what is happening. Thus providing the necessary information needed on specific levels for the type and quantity of marine organisms being captured and traded in the marine aquarium industry. This process will also ensure that management practices and regulations already in place, are complied with in a sustainable fishing practice and prevention of over-exploitation of our marine resources.
Fishers are individually tasked to maintain catch records which are updated on a daily basis or every time fishing is done. A summary of all fishing carried out within the FMA is kept in the master logbook, which acts as the database for all transactions that take place within a given period. Each FMA has its own master logbook to enable the SEASMART Program FMA Development Team to follow-up on the progress of fishers as well as keep track of how much fishing has been done to date.
Record keeping is vital information that enables local stakeholders to keep track of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) Limits especially for particular species of marine aquarium organisms considered to be highly in demand in the marine aquarium trade. Without the proper enforcement of TAC, overexploitation is imminent. It is therefore, the SEASMART Program and the FFD Division’s priority to maintain a high standard of fishing rules and regulation that ensures greater sustainability and benefits that are viable to fishers and to local communities.
It is essential for fishers to have the appropriate fishing gear and equipment to ensure that only the highest quality of marine aquarium organisms are produced. Since the marine aquarium fishery has only been recently introduced to PNG, procurement of the right kind of material that is of good quality has proven to be quite challenging. The assembling and gathering of gear and equipment require the collection of quotation from numerous identified wholesalers and retailers, including those that have to be imported from other countries. Price comparison, stock availability and consistent suppliers are thus seeked out before any purchases can be made. In the selection of materials for the marine aquarium fishery, it is significantly essential to choose those which are of a higher quality to ensure durability with proper maintenance.
The following is the list of dive gear and fishing equipment provided to fishers:
|Mask & Snorkel Combo||1 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|Slate & Pencil||1 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|Barrier Net||1 Pcs||Yes||No|
|Sinkers (lead)||75 Pcs||Yes||No|
|Floater for Barrier Net||25 Pcs||Yes||No|
|Stocking Net||1 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|Scoop Net||1 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|Note Book||1 pcs||Yes||Yes|
|Kilometrico Biro||1 pcs||Yes||Yes|
|Jars with lid (C20 & C30)||100 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|White Buckets (L)||4 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|White Buckets (S)||50 Pcs (Shared)||Yes||Yes|
|20-liter container||2 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|PVC pipe||2 Pcs (3m)||Yes||Yes|
|PVC caps||4 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|Poker (wire)||1 Pcs||Yes||Yes|
|Fishing Line 80 Lb||8m||Yes||Yes|
|Fishing Line 40 Lb||30m||Yes||Yes|
|Fishing Line 15 Lb||50m||Yes||Yes|
|3mm Rope (150m)||Shared||Yes||Yes|
|6mm Rope (150m)||Shared||Yes||Yes|
|8mm Rope (150m)||Shared||Yes||Yes|
Note: Yes/No represents male or female fisher receiving of material.
The following table shows local supply stores located in Port Moresby with the required gear and equipment:
|1||The Net Shop||Mask|
|2||Bellteks hardware||Bucket lg (27ltrs)|
|Bucket sm (5ltrs)|
|4||BNBM hardware||PVC pipes, 80mm|
|5||Pacific industry||Blue barrels|
|6||Lams trading||Jars, (cups)|
|8||Street Vendors||15L & 20L containers|
Materials such as underwater slates, barrier nets and scoop nets are presently not available locally and therefore havet to be imported from other countries such as Australia and the Philippines. The SEASMART Program is currently trying to source out local manufacturing companies that would be able to produce them locally which would enable fishers to access the materials conveniently.
The extension and monitoring activities are roles and responsibilities of the FFD division of the SEASMART Program, which are usually carried out after the completion of fisher trainings in newly established FMAs. It is a process that continues for at least five monitoring periods in which fishers are observed and assessed regarding their performance and application of skills and knowledge they were taught during training. This has been the main focus of the SEASMART Program’s effort in ensuring that the right fishing practices are enforced and applied in a manner that is acceptable and relevant for this type of fishery.
Since the SEASMART Program is the first to have introduced an aquarium fishery trade in PNG, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to see to a successful completion of this project. Therefore it is of utmost importance that the SEASMART Program assists fishers in every way possible to foster the growth and advancement of marine aquarium trade in PNG. By carrying out these duties, the program fulfils its obligation as a facilitator in ensuring that fishers learn all the necessities of aquarium fishery and become efficient at it, so that this fishery can also become an alternate source of earning income.
It is through this process that careful assessments are made according to the required standards of aquarium fishery before any recommendations are given for a fisher or an FMA to be fully certified. This will give them (FMAs) an added advantage for recognition globally and gain acceptance especially in countries such as the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia, where marine aquarium trade is and has been predominant.
Initial entry to the community is carried out in collaboration with the Provincial Fisheries Office in order to establish credible community leaders as contacts. The FFD and the MAP Division is responsible for the establishment of the fishers association for each Fishery Management Area. The Community Development Coordinator or the Community Organizer handles issues and concerns for the duration of the project. The organizer coordinates closely with the FMA development team in each FMA. Both FFD & MAP division work together in trying to organize the fishers into preparing and introducing the fishers into the initial process of the formation of their own association. The SEASMART Program provides training, training materials and the personnel necessary to accomplish the objectives of the establishment of the Fishers Association. The fishers commit to form their association and elect their officers and representatives for the MAP Committee. These officers are key-persons in ensuring the coordination between the SEASMART Program and the local stakeholders for the smooth implementation of the trial program. Establishing a fishers association will also aid in the capacity building of local stakeholders while ensuring ownership of a sustainable marine aquarium fishery.
Roles & Responsibilities of a Fisher’s Association
- Only use fishing gears and accessories (as prescribed by SEASMART Program Training Division) in the aquarium fishing activities. The aquarium fishing gears and accessories shall not in any way be used for any other type of fishing activity;
- Fishers must be proficient in the use of legally allowed nets for their fishing activities and must be trained by a recognized organization in certifiable aquarium fishing best practices.
- Fishers at all times shall preserve all marine aquarium habitats and must never bash corals nor destroy sea grass beds or mangroves during actual fishing of marine aquarium organisms.
- Fishers must be willing to submit themselves voluntarily to a skills assessment when and as required by concerned authorities and MAC Accredited Certifiers.
- Fishers shall always maintain marine aquarium fishing records and submit them to the concerned management authorities such as the MAP committee upon request.
- Records shall contain data that include the following but will not be limited to:
- Fishing area or reef where the fish has been caught. (Explanation: The name of the reef area where fish has been extracted must be listed down with the dates.)
- Species caught. (Explanation: Common name of the fish caught must be written down in the logbook.)
- (Explanation: The number of fish collected must be listed.)
- Fishers shall always adhere to the order systems between exporters (buyers) and fishers.
- Fishers shall ship only marine aquarium organism that they themselves have caught and shall put their own identification on their batch of aquarium fish.
- Fishers shall always perform proper post harvest and husbandry techniques.
- Fishers shall never target undersized and oversized species.
- Fishers shall return reject or non-target species to the wild or into a suitable environment after screening.
- Fishers shall designate members to serve on the Management Area Plan Committee as their representative in meetings and deliberation of policies to be presented to the members for approval.
- Fishers shall always abide with the management regulations as described in the Management Area Plan and in the existing local fishery related regulations.
- Fishers shall help implement and follow agreements regarding fish replenishment areas, close season, no-take species and periodic rotation of fishing areas.
- Fishers shall agree to participate in activities relevant to the review and audit of the Management Area Plan.
- Fishers shall always report observations of drastic changes in population density of specific species and condition of reef areas to the committee if they notice it during their fishing activities.
- Fishers shall report to the MAP committee any member or members of the group involved in all forms of illegal fishing for further investigation.
- Fishers shall not allow any person who is involved in any kind of illegal fishing activity to be a member of the association unless fully reformed.
- Fishers shall always abide with the local level government code; ordinances promulgated by their local, provincial government and national fishery laws.
- Fishers shall attend meetings called by the MAP committee.
- Fishers shall always abide with the management regulations as described in the Management Area Plan.
- Only duly registered members of the fishers association as submitted to the Management Area Plan Committee shall be allowed to be engaged in the fishing and trading of aquarium fish in the Fishery Management Areas as identified in the Management Area Plan.