Citizen Science for Fisheries Management

Citizen science isn’t just something for people in developed nations.  It’s also a useful tool for less wealthy nations – and particularly for communities dependent on marine resources.  In fact involving local people in research might be one of the few ways in which both communities and researchers in developing nations can obtain datasets spanning long periods of time.  These datasets not only important for understanding our marine world, but also for ensuring we manage our interactions with as small an impact as possible.  Two articles have appeared over the past week that take a look at Island fishing communities and their involvement in science.

The first article published by National Geographicfocuses on the Solomon Islands which lie just east of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific.  Here, local people working in the fishing industry are joining a survey program and using a mobile phone app to collect data on what fish are being caught, how big they are, and how much the fish are selling for.  As well as get a better handle on what’s being caught from Solomon’s reefs, the Solomon Island Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources hope to use this data to reduce spoilage and make the whole supply chain much more efficient.

For our second article, we are going to head over to Palau, which also lies in the Pacific, but further north than the Solmon Islands and east of the Philippines.   Just like in the Solomon Islands, members of the fishing industry are getting involved in data collection.  Fishermen have been trained on measuring the size of fish they catch, how to sex the fish, and how to figure out if it is mature or immature.  The fishers and The Nature Conservancy are trying to work out if there are enough mature fish to repopulate the reefs.  Between, 2012 and 2013, some 2,800 fish were measured and recorded by the fishers.  This data showed that 60% of the fish they were catching were below the age of maturity…not what you want to do if you want the fish population to rebuild.

Image: Two fishermen prepare for spear fishing, Santupaele village, Western Province, Solomon Islands. Photo by Filip Milovac. Credit WorldFish/Flickr  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)