Call to Action: Help us understand marine conservation needs & successes!

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Call to Action: Help us understand marine conservation needs!

Marine conservation strategies are being implemented around the world – the details differ by country. Evaluation of these strategies is a challenge due to a lack of data. But, thousands of ocean explorers survey the world’s oceans everyday — while boating, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, surfing and paddling. These people make important observations that, when gathered properly, can be used to inform science.

Since 2004, eOceans.org has combined thousands of observations to inform marine science.

In late 2015, we launched a new citizen science ‘snapshot’ project – the Global Marine Conservation survey, using sharks as an indicator, which runs until the end of April, 2016. For this, we are recruiting all ocean explorers to:

1) Share their own observations, stories and photos, and

2) Help others in the community, especially those without computers, to participate.

What’s in the questionnaire?

This 10-minute questionnaire has 3 main parts:

Part A: Your experience – activities & length of time in area. This helps us understand how many hours you have been exploring the ocean in a particular area – whether as a tourist with only 15 hours, or a dive pro with >10,000 dives, this will help us understand how to put your observations into perspective.

Part B: What sharks you have seen in the area – including ZERO! The zeros allow us to put your observations into context with others. For example, in some areas people have >10,000 dives and have never seen a shark, while other areas people have only 10 dives and have seen 5 shark species. The zero’s provide perspective.

Part C: What conservation strategies exist and what threats persist? If you know all the details of the regulations, or have no idea what restrictions are in place, we want to know what you know! This section also asks participants to rank the various threats in the area – e.g., climate change, habitat destruction, marine debris and fishing – are they high or low threats?

Who has helped so far?

So far, participants from 64 countries or regions have filled out their stories. Our combined total effort is now more than 262,000 dives, and 109,000 days of surfing, sailing and paddling.

What to do next?

A minimum of 10 experienced ocean explorers is required for a country to be included in the analysis, but I use all observations, regardless of experience.

  1. Go to www.eOceans.org, and take the 10-minute “Conservation Survey” — include comments, stories and relevant photos that tell a story about marine conservation in your area.
  2. Share with your networks –asking them to share their stories to help inform marine conservation efforts.
  3. Help recruit ocean explorers in your areas, by taking the survey directly to dive, surf, and fishing shops in your area, to help others share their stories. This is especially important for reaching people without computers.

The power of citizen science is to combine hundreds of people’s stories to get a clearer picture of what is going on. Achieving the level of effort required for this study is not possible requires the effort of many. So, I appreciate all the support I can get from ocean explorers around the world.

What experience does eOceans have to do this work?

eOceans.org was developed using 10-years of marine citizen science research and experience. This research looked at various aspects of the value and limitations of recreational divers for describing shark and ray populations (Ward-Paige 2010, PhD thesis, Dalhousie University). This work also used citizen science data to describe spatial and temporal trends in sharks and rays – yellow stingray, Caribbean reef sharks, etc. eShark is also part of the eOceans.org umbrella and has been gathering thousands of ocean explorers’ observations since 2004 to evaluate conservation needs.

In 2012-2013 we ran eManta – a similar project to the Conservation Assessment, which described the “Global Status and Human Use Patterns of Manta Rays” using expert divers’ observations. This highlighted the need for international conservation measures to increase monitoring and reporting of catches and trade, since many countries where they were being caught were not being reported, and showed need for international conservation efforts. This was used to support the listing of manta rays on Appendix II by CITES in 2013.

See results of a similar project here:

Global Population Trends and Human Use Patterns of Manta and Mobula Rays

And some of the things I consider when designing these projects (e.g., effort needed, species, etc.) here:

Assessing the Value of Recreational Divers for Censusing Elasmobranchs

 

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