The coral reefs of Papua New Guinea are among the most species diverse in the world, support an important artisanal fishery, but lack an effective national conservation programme. Increased commercialization, population growth, promotion of fisheries development projects, and the live reef food fish trade are expected to increase demand for the country's reef fish. This paper examines how socioeconomic factors affect the condition of the artisanal multi-species coral reef fishery in six sites in Papua New Guinea. Catch characteristics such as diversity, trophic level and body size by landing site were examined along a fishing pressure gradient. Both exogenous factors such as markets and endogenous factors such as fishing pressure were related to the condition of fish catch. In general, the trophic level and lengths of fish captured in Papua New Guinea were relatively high, but were reduced on reefs with high fishing effort near fish markets. Fisheries showed signs of depletion above c. 25 fishing trips per km2 per day and the proximity of markets was a better indicator of overfishing than human population size. A cross-scale approach to fisheries management is required in Papua New Guinea to coordinate decentralized local management, limit the intrusion of extractive enterprises, and develop policies that seek to minimize exogenous pressures on marine resources.
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