MPA-FishMApp – A Citizen Science App That Simplifies Monitoring of Coral Reef Fish Density and Biomass in Marine Protected Areas


Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas where extraction of marine organism are prohibited to promote fisheries conservation and population recovery, specifically for reef fishes. In order to determine if MPAs are effective, annual monitoring survey is conducted wherein technical skills are required. Monitoring of reef fish can be done either by snorkeling and/or SCUBA diving and doing fish visual census (FVC) techniques where the observer needs to: 1) identify hundreds of fish down to a specific taxonomic level 2) recording abundance and 3)estimating fish body size. All of these are usually done by experts but efforts are evolving by involving citizen scientists (those who are not Scientists but are trained to collect data systematically and analyze data sets) in these surveys. Since there are least more than 1,600 MPAs nationwide that are managed by local stakeholders, citizen scientists can help determine if MPAs are effective or not by doing the monitoring themselves. Thus, to remove the technical requirements in MPA reef fish monitoring, this novel MPA Fish Monitoring Application (MPA-FishMApp) coupled with simplified FVC method was created. For data collection, the simplified method is done by identifying only 21 reef fish species during surveys. The collected data will be then integrated and clean for it to be encoded in the web-based MPA FishMapp. The app offers a simple data interface, data storage and algorithms to estimate fish density and fish biomass where data visualization is instantaneously available. Temporal (annual monitoring) and spatial (different MPAs across municipalities) data can be visualize.  


The significance of the study is to help local stakeholders of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Philippines to efficiently capture and store fish visual census data and to quickly generate and visualize reef fish parameters including biomass and density. This can help monitor if MPAs are effective or not.



Rene A. Abesamis (Silliman University-Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management; USAID Fish Right Program – Silliman University; USAID Fish Right Program – Marine Environment and Resources Foundation; Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines)
Rodel Balingit (CLASE-CSIT Programs/CISS/EdTecheSS, University of San Agustin)
Romulo de Castro (Center for Informatics, University of San Agustin)
Raphael Nelo Aguila (Center for Informatics, University of San Agustin)
Maryjune Cabiguin (USAID Fish Right Program – Marine Environment and Resources Foundation; Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines)
Julius Villagracia (Center for Informatics, University of San Agustin)
Marynoll Susmeña (USAID Fish Right Program – Silliman University)
Mario Neil T. Montemar (Southern Negros Alliance of Fisherfolks)
Antonio Yocor (Emoha Dive Resort, Santander, Cebu)

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