Report on Evian training programme in Papua New Guinea

Report on Evian training programme in Papua New Guinea

28 November 2000
Papua New Guinea

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Country: Papua New Guinea

Title of the Project: Training in survey of coastal wetlands at Collingwood Bay, Papua New Guinea (location changed to Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea)

Year of approval: 1999

Project Officer: Roger Jaensch/Aaron Jenkins, Wetlands International - Oceania, GPO Box 787 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

Date project was completed: 28/7/00
Date final report provided: 22/8/00


The project was designed to build capacity for freshwater inventory in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Due to landowner disputes it was decided (with Bureau approval) to move the venue of the project from Collingwood Bay to the Kimbe Bay region. A major in-field training exercise was subsequently conducted in the freshwater-estuarine wetlands of the Kimbe Bay region, West New Britain, PNG, on 17- 27 July 2000. The team consisted of a PNG Office of Environment and Conservation wetland officer, a West New Britain Provincial fisheries officer, manager of the locally based conservation NGO (Mahonia na Dari), four field and education officers working for Mahonia and The Nature Conservancy, a field officer for the European Union and a PNG-based freshwater and marine field technician for Wetlands International-Oceania. The exercise included training on theory of fish surveys and concentrated on in-field application of techniques in inventory of freshwater and estuarine fishes. It produced data that highlight the international importance of this area and its wetlands in terms of freshwater/estuarine fish biodiversity and that may contribute to the possible nomination of select water bodies in the area as future Ramsar sites.

1. Achievements against each project objective.

Objective 1. To enable PNG wetland officers to develop their skills in survey/inventory of coastal wetlands and fishes. - Task completed.

Summary of actions taken – Mr Aaron Jenkins (Wetlands International - Oceania) led a team of PNG wetland officers on a field and laboratory training exercise in the Kimbe Bay area of West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The team consisted of a PNG Department of Environment and Conservation wetland officer (Vagi Rei), a West New Britain Provincial fisheries officer (Simon Ono), Manager of the locally based conservation NGO, Mahonia na Dari (Shannon Seeto), four field and education officers working for Mahonia and The Nature Conservancy (Margit Luscombe, Dominic Raka, Joe Longa and Peter Prior), a field officer for the European Union (Jakob Waka) and a PNG based freshwater and marine field technician for Wetlands International - Oceania (Paul Led). A representative cross section of the freshwater and estuarine systems of Kimbe Bay, West New Britain, was surveyed including rivers, streams, lakes and mangroves. One site in particular (the Lake Lalili complex) shows great potential as a candidate Ramsar site, containing relatively unharvested populations of the endangered Sawfish (Pristis microdon), an endemic goby and large groups of ducks and herons.

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The Evian project team (Photo: Aaron Jenkins)

The training schedule (attached) focused on survey of freshwater and estuarine fishes since this work had not been done in West New Britain and this subject met training needs as advised by both national and provincial government officers and the local NGO. There was a preliminary desk-based session on freshwater and estuarine survey techniques before 10 days of field survey of local water bodies within the Kimbe Bay area. Night laboratory sessions were held at the Mahonia na Dari research station to go over preservation and photography techniques. The night sessions also were used to give more advanced lessons in taxonomy of freshwater/estuarine fishes to those who were particularly keen. Field guide books and laminated illustrations of the freshwater fishes of PNG were provided to the survey participants to enhance their ongoing surveying capabilities. The trainees, through direct in-field training, now have proven capabilities in freshwater and estuarine fish survey techniques (Photographs of the wetlands and training activity will be forwarded to the Ramsar Bureau separately.)

Objective 2. To obtain information on the conservation values of a major coastal wetland system in PNG, which can be used to assess the suitability of the wetlands for possible future nomination as a Ramsar site. - Task completed.

Summary of actions taken – Due to the relatively large amount of previous work by other scientists on coral reefs in this area, it was decided that the focus of effort would be on freshwater and estuarine systems. There is a serious dearth of information on these latter systems for the island of New Britain. Comprehensive data on 45+ fish taxa were obtained from 16 survey sites (see attachments) including more than 11 new records for the island (including the endangered Sawfish), several endemic species, and 10 potential new undescribed species. At least 15% of the country’s freshwater fish diversity is represented in the freshwater/estuarine bodies of Kimbe Bay. This recently obtained information underlines the international importance of the freshwater and estuarine systems of the Kimbe Bay area. As mentioned above, the Lake Lalili complex has great potential as a Ramsar site which has only come to light as a result of this survey/training exercise. Local landowners, conservation NGOs and participating government officers are supportive of protection of the area making it practical to nominate this area as a Ramsar site. A technical report detailing the results of this survey will be made available shortly, highlighting the area’s freshwater and estuarine fish diversity and freshwater quality.

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Sicyopterus, potentially a newly discovered fish species

Objective 3. To provide support to conservation initiatives by local communities in an important wetland area. - Task completed.

Summary of actions taken – The locally based NGO, Mahonia na Dari, has taken the lead role in the Kimbe Bay area in engaging local communities in wetland conservation activities. Until now Mahonia has focussed primarily on coral reef systems because of its lack of capacity to assess freshwater/estuarine systems and suggest management options. This survey/training exercise substantially enhances the capacity of this NGO to deliver on freshwater and estuarine conservation objectives as five of their permanent staff received training, reference material and some monitoring equipment. In all areas where surveys were conducted, local landowners also accompanied the team, often seeing some of the cryptic and smaller fishes for the first time themselves. In many areas discussions were held with landowners about the conservation values of their freshwater/estuarine systems and the possibility of establishing legally recognised protected areas.

2. Overall project outcomes.

Overall, the project achieved success above and beyond meeting the set objectives.

3. Budgetary details.

Were all funds allocated to the project from the Evian Initiative spent in accordance with the project specifications and budget ? Yes

Has an expense account detailing these expenditures been provided ? Yes

Unspent funds being returned to the Ramsar Bureau: nil


  • coordination and training fee (Wetlands International) 4000
  • domestic airfares and local travel 1143
  • accommodation/food, hire boats and guides at Mahonia 2057
  • living allowances, participants 1386
  • survey equipment/film/running costs 333
  • fish identification costs 881

Grand total: SFR 9,800

Note: Wetlands International contributed some officer time to developing the project and planning the activities and contributed its international airfare.

Project Officer

Name: Roger Jaensch/Aaron Jenkins                Signed: _________________________

Institution: Wetlands International-Oceania               Date: 22 August 1999

Address: GPO Box 787, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia.


Plan for training in freshwater fish surveys

Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, July 2000

1. Systematic description of collection site.

  • GPS location - use of handheld GPS
  • Water temperature - use of thermometer
  • Water pH - use of hand held pH meter
  • Water Turbidity- making and use of Secchi disk
  • Current speed –field method for estimating current speed
  • Water body width, depth
  • Description of adjacent land (ie bank structure, incline, overhanging vegetation)
  • Identify major aquatic plants

2. Collection of fishes

Large seine net (2 m x 7 m, 0.4 cm2 mesh) This net is pulled in a rough capturing circle with the bottom edge down, as close as possible to the substrate, and forward of the top floating edge of the net. This technique is executed before anyone can set foot in the water body to minimise the number of fleeing fishes. This is generally only used in minor tributaries and slow moving or still waters such as lakes and ponds.

Medium size pole seine net (1.2 m x 0.8 m, 1mm2 mesh) This is used in a variety of ways. Firstly, it is held firmly downstream as people kick and dislodge rubble upstream. This is a useful method for collecting small, bottom dwelling fish. Also, this net is used to "scoop" (bottom edge held forward, run along substrate for a few seconds then lifted) from any accessible shallow body of water. This net is particularly useful for narrow streams.

Small hand nets (15cm x 10cm + 10 cm x 8cm , 1mm2 mesh) These are used to "scoop" the underside of overhanging rocks and in small crevices in the smaller streams and also to collect fishes when using Rotenone in still water bodies.

Rotenone 8.4% (powder form) This ichthyocide is used only when the conditions are deemed suitable. Suitable conditions are relatively slow moving water with little cascading "white water" for 100 - 150 meters and an area that can be barricaded downstream by the large net. It is also used in still water bodies such as lakes and ponds.

Hook and line (8 lb test line, 3.5 cm hook) These hooks are baited predominantly with "Sago" grubs and are thrown from the bank into the larger, faster moving, water bodies that can not be fished effectively by any of the other methods. A small weight attached to the line to aid in the casting process. This method is used in the major tributaries an fast moving rivers in conjunction with traps and other local methods.

Traditional trap This is generally a conical woven bamboo basket with a baited, spring-loaded circular door ( (1.2 m length with 20 cm diameter opening at one end). These traps are also baited with Sago grubs and placed in crevices underwater along the banks of the larger, faster water bodies. There are also other variations to these traps.

Interviews (Fish markets/ on fishing grounds): This is a good way to see if your collections are fairly complete and can gives you an idea of the important local food fishes and relative abundance. If there are interesting fishes that you have not managed to collect you can usually buy them and preserve them on the spot. Important questions to ask are: by what methods they used to catch the fishes, where they caught the fishes, what time of day they caught the fishes, how long it took to catch the fishes, are they seasonal and do they prefer a certain type of habitat. It is also useful to have a color field guide to use in combination with your questions about certain fishes.

  • It is very useful to pay attention to and even use any other traditional methods of catching fishes that you see. The locals are generally more savvy than you at catching their local fishes and know where the best spots are. This local knowledge will also provide important insights into the biology of the local ichthyofauna.

3. Identification of Fishes

  • Use of field guides for initial family level identification using Gestalt method (shape/location)
  • Use of taxonomic keys for identification to generic and species level

4. Preservation of Fishes

It is sometimes desirable to preserve specimens, particularly if positive identification by museum authorities is required and/or a reference collection for a particular water body is required.

  • Mixing of fixing solution (how to prepare a 10% Formalin solution ie 1 part Formaldehyde to 9 parts water)
  • Cutting of specimens greater than 15-20 cm to facilitate internal organ preservation
  • Mixing of storage solution (70% Ethanol, 30% Water) for storage after 2 weeks of fixing in Formalin
  • Direct storage in 80% Ethanol solution for DNA work
  • Detailed labelling on underwater paper with permanent ink of ambient conditions/location/date/collectors
  • Color loss is rapid so accurate preservation of color patterns is best recorded by photographs with fresh specimens

5. Photography of Fishes

  • Aquarium method using small portable aquarium

-live fish placed in aquarium with some local aquatic vegetation and benthos
-remove small bubbles on glass with paint brush
-photograph with sun behind and/ or with a flash angled to avoid reflection from the glass

  • Pinned out and paint with formalin method:

-spread out fins and pin with small pins on styrofoam
-blot fish dry to prevent glare
-place on contrasting background
-ruler near fish to tell size of fish

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-- Reported by Aaron Jenkins, Senior Program Officer, Wetlands International-Oceania,