ESR 36:15-26 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00887

Fishers’ ecological knowledge of sawfishes in the Sepik and Ramu rivers, northern Papua New Guinea

Ruth H. Leeney1,2,4,*, Ralph R. Mana3, Nicholas K. Dulvy1,2

1IUCN Shark Specialist Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada
2Earth to Ocean Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada
3University of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
4Present address: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Papua New Guinea (PNG) is geographically close to northern Australia, a key region for 4 sawfish species. However, detailed data on sawfish presence in PNG are limited, particularly from the north coast. We conducted a short study to assess whether sawfishes are still present in 2 adjacent rivers—the Sepik and Ramu—in northern PNG. Interviews were conducted with fishers from villages along the Sepik River between Chambri Lake and the river mouth, as well as along the Keram River (a tributary of the Sepik) and the Ramu River. Landings by gillnet fishers at the mouth of the Sepik River were observed. At least 2 species, the narrow sawfish Anoxypristis cuspidata and the largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis, were present at the mouth of the Sepik River and were caught in gillnets used to target sharks and croakers (Sciaenidae). Largetooth sawfish are still captured by fishers in the freshwater reaches of the Sepik, Ramu, and Keram rivers. The fins of sawfishes and other elasmobranchs provide a source of income, and sawfish meat is eaten locally or sold. The Sepik River and surrounding coastline remains important habitat for sawfishes; however, most interviewees reported a decline in sawfish catches over the course of their lifetimes. These findings corroborate existing evidence suggesting that PNG remains a global stronghold for sawfishes. Immediate collaboration with fishing communities and PNG’s fisheries and conservation authorities is needed to ensure that any sawfish catches and habitats are appropriately managed so that populations do not decline further.


KEY WORDS: Pristidae · Extinction risk · Anoxypristis cuspidata · Pristis pristis · Narrow sawfish · Largetooth sawfish · Interview surveys · Bycatch


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Cite this article as: Leeney RH, Mana RR, Dulvy NK (2018) Fishers’ ecological knowledge of sawfishes in the Sepik and Ramu rivers, northern Papua New Guinea. Endang Species Res 36:15-26. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00887

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