CPUE Think Tank – Monitoring Fish Catch in Fiji

Researchers gather as part of a think thank on catch per unit effort for Fiji.

Fisheries researchers gather for a CPUE think tank

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Fiji and Papua New Guinea programs, University of the South Pacific’s Institute of Applied Science, Department of Fisheries and Conservation International’s Hawaii program held a ‘CPUE Think Tank’ in Suva in October, 2015. CPUE stands for ‘catch per unit effort’ and it is used by fisheries managers to monitor fish catch to understand how fish stocks are changing over time.

A number of organisations including the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) network have been using a CPUE logbook with data going back as far as 2008. Some of this data have been collected by scientists, while others have been collected by trained community representatives. However, despite time, money and effort, much of this data has not been analysed and therefore not been used to guide or improve fisheries management.

Over the course of a morning, participants of the think tank shared some of the challenges they faced working with CPUE data when it came to collection, storage and analysis. We learnt that fishers in particular use more than one gear type on any given fishing trip, making it difficult to know what fish was caught by what gear type. Recording time spent traveling to a fishing site versus actually fishing was challenging for fishers (who naturally do not wear watches). There were also differences between local names and scientific names for fish and invertebrate species, and local names in Fiji can be highly specific to a geographic location. Participants of the think tank highlighted ways to improve the current logbook to make it easier to use, and to reduce errors made by recorders.

We also thought carefully about what types of management questions CPUE data can help us answer, and which ones were the most important for managers. Some of the key questions highlighted were:

  • Do specific gear types target specific fish groups?
  • How much fish being caught is below the legal size limit for Fiji?
  • What proportion of fish is eaten versus sold?
  • Economic values of fisheries for different villages/districts
  • What distances are fishers traveling to fish and how much time is spent fishing in general?

Over the upcoming months, WCS and USP will be analysing their data to try and answer some of these key questions, and providing more up to date information on how our coastal fisheries in Fiji are doing. We also will be assessing if CPUE surveys are worth investing in, and can they be used to improve fisheries management.

Words by Sangeeta Mangubhai and image by Dwain Qalovaki

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