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Preliminary age and growth estimates of the blue shark (Prionace glauca) from Papua New Guinea

Abstract

Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) are recognised as one of five key pelagic shark species in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) due to their frequent incidental catch in tuna and billfish longline fisheries. Given their importance in the region, the aim of this study was to investigate the life history of this species for use in future population assessments in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Eighty-one vertebral samples were examined to provide preliminary age and growth estimates for P. glauca caught by commercial longline vessels operating in the Bismarck and Solomon seas. Ages ranged from 10 to 25 years. A Bayesian approach using Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) was used to estimate growth parameters. The von Bertalanffy model provided the best fitting growth model (males: L = 379 cm, L0 = 45.8 cm, k = 0.07 year−1; females: L = 329.2 cm, L0 = 45.8 cm and k = 0.08 year−1; combined sexes: L = 350.8 cm, L0 = 45.8 cm, k = 0.07 year−1). The asymptotic length parameter estimate for the male P. glauca population from PNG was the largest reported. Our results demonstrate that intraspecific variation in life history traits of P. glauca across its entire distribution is likely due to differences in methodology, sample size and interpretation of growth bands rather than regional differences in growth. This study takes an important step towards facilitating management strategies for P. glauca in PNG by producing preliminary growth estimates for the species. However, further studies with larger sample sizes are required to conduct age validation and refine the life history information for this highly migratory species in PNG.

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Data availability

The authors consent to data, material and code availability on request.

Samples collected for the purpose of this study were obtained dead from a commercial fishery and ethical approval was granted by James Cook University Animal Welfare and Ethics committee (No. A1566).

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Brian Kumasi, Luanah Yaman, Leban Gisawa and Ludwig Kumoru from the NFA, as well as the fisheries and the NFA on-board fisheries observers: Jackson Maravee, Noah Lurang Jr, Daniel Sau, Murphy John, Paliau Parkop, Towai Peli and Udill Jotham. The authors would also like to thank Samantha Sherman, Satoshi Shiratsuchi and Andrea Cabrera Garcia for assistance in the laboratory.

Funding

This project was co-funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR; project FIS/2012/102), CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, and the PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA).

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation and analysis was performed by Sushmita Mukherji. Data collection was performed by the NFA on-board fisheries observers: Jackson Maravee, Noah Lurang Jr, Daniel Sau, Murphy John, Paliau Parkop, Towai Peli and Udill Jotham. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Sushmita Mukherji and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sushmita Mukherji.

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Mukherji, S., Smart, J., D’Alberto, B. et al. Preliminary age and growth estimates of the blue shark (Prionace glauca) from Papua New Guinea. Environ Biol Fish 104, 1163–1176 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-021-01146-z

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Keywords

  • Ageing
  • VBGF
  • Pelagic shark fisheries
  • Bayesian
  • Western Central Pacific Ocean