An update on development of new identification materials and enhanced training to observers to support better identification of sharks and rays in observer data
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), along with the four other tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (t-RFMOs), is a partner in the Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) – often referred to as Common Oceans – Tuna Project. The objective of this project is to achieve efficient and sustainable management of fisheries resources and biodiversity conservation in marine areas that do not fall under the responsibility of any one country. One set of activities of the GEF-funded ABNJ Tuna Project aims at reducing the impact of tuna fisheries on biodiversity by improving data and assessment methods for sharks thereby promoting their effective management. Within this set of activities, WCPFC is conducting work on Shark Data Improvement and Harmonization. The objective of this component is to work toward developing a practical and consistent approach to monitoring the status of sharks and rays caught by ABNJ tuna fisheries. It focuses on identifying the data deficiencies which inhibit assessment, and thus management, and proposes strategies to obtain more data through field studies and better information return from fisheries. As part of this objective, SPC will deliver new identification materials and enhanced training to observers to support better identification of sharks and rays in observer data. This paper provides an update on progress to date with this work and identifies the work still to be completed. The final outputs of the study are expected to be available for consideration at SC15.
The scope of this particular project involves SPC facilitating the delivery of new identification materials and training to observers to support recent designation of manta and mobula rays as WCPFC key species. In addition, SPC will facilitate enhanced training focused on separating silky sharks from other Carcharhinids, and distinguishing between the three thresher shark species, particularly when fishers cut sharks off the line. Finally, SPC will expand the existing Pacific Island Regional Fishery Observer (PIRFO) shark species guides to include a greater range of species, multiple illustrations per species, and tips for distinguishing between similar species. The project is arranged into two key components – observer training, and ID guides – noting there is some overlap and considerable feedback between them. The enhanced observer-training component activities are limited to the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) and will be delivered through the Pacific Island Regional Fisheries Observer (PIRFO) framework. The work of the WCPFC Regional Observer Programme Coordinator with other Regional Observer Programme (ROP) training provides an opportunity for this work to be spread more broadly throughout the Regional Observer Programme (ROP).