By Zafer Kizilkaya, Mediterranean Conservation Society.
Gökova Bay MPA is one of the first marine areas in the world incorporating the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) in patrolling implementation. This tool, which is already in use in terrestrial parks around the world, both extends and simplifies existing technologies for monitoring efforts to tackle poaching and other illegal activities, making those technologies more effective, efficient and user-friendly. More info about SMART at the end of this article.
In Gökova, custom built data model was configured considering site specific patrolling needs, nature and source of illegal fishing activities, MPA borders and legal necessities. SMART is user friendly software running on Android phones over the Cyber tracker application. Rangers were trained on how to use it and download the patrolling data. It is so efficient that all the related patrolling information, wildlife observations and other data could easily be recorded with GPS data. It is way much faster to analyse the data and take counter measures for MPA managers. In addition, as the patrolling routes and tracks could be seen on the MPA map recorded in the programme, all the activities have embedded GPS records with pictures which would be legal evidence in the case the infringement are taken into court. In addition, we can collect and share field data in real time using SMART-Connect which enables the management and response to real time alerts that can be shared with the Coast Guard and other relevant government institutions. Real time data enable more effective and rapid operational responses as well. We can monitor in real time where the patrol boats are, their routes as well as increase fuel saving.
Another SMART model was designed for socio-economic data collection for fish landing data. Again we can monitor fish landings and related economic data in real time. Almost 99% of this data is correct as the fishery cooperative manager enters the data immediately on his tablet during the delivery of the landings.
Drones : the future of marine patrolling
As of August 2017, the Mediterranean Conservation Society (MCS) has started trial drone patrolling scheme in Gökova Bay MPA. DJI Mavic Pro drone has been used for this purpose with a 27-min flight time and 4K video properties. During air patrolling, rangers were waiting for the report of illegal activities from the drone operator and could steer directly to the event. The air patrolling has already proven how efficient, effective and silent the drone is. Video and photo recordings are extremely sharp. MCS applied for flight permission from the Mugla Mayorship for drone implemented marine patrolling in Gökova Bay to legitimate visual evidences drone captures that would be legal in court. For small MPAs in the Mediterranean it seems that drones can save considerable fuel for ranger boats and can be a deterrent method as ranger boats could be seen from a distance by illegal fishers. Night patrolling flight are also possible with special night vision cameras. As their flight times and technological capacities develops, drones may prove in the future to be an essential surveillance tool for MPAs. MCS requested SMART software developers to include a drone software interface into SMART that enables flight data capture.
What is SMART?
Developed by global conservation organizations in close collaboration with protected area authorities and other key stakeholders, the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) represent a major step forward for improved site-based conservation. SMART’s software and training materials both extend and simplify existing technologies for monitoring efforts to tackle poaching and other illegal activities, making those technologies more effective, efficient and user-friendly.
The SMART Tool is open source, non-proprietary, and freely available. The Approach is supported long-term by collaboration and is based on a set of common principles for improved site-based conservation effectiveness, to enable future development and adaptations to meet the evolving needs of users.
Why SMART? SMART has been developed in response to the recognition that traditional tools, technologies and resources are not stemming the illegal killing (illegal fishing in marine environment) and trading of endangered species and the resulting loss of threatened and highly valued biodiversity and their habitats. There are a number of reasons why our best efforts to date have yet to meet this challenge. A critical issue is the growing gap between the sophistication of those involved in the illegal capture and trade in wildlife and the number, skill levels and motivation of the personnel committed to enforcing laws. SMART was designed to help bridge this gap. Its combination of software and training materials provides protected area authorities and community groups with the ability to empower staff, boost motivation, increase efficiency, and promote credible and transparent monitoring of the effectiveness of antipoaching efforts. SMART can do this because it is more adaptive and intuitive to use than other monitoring technologies now in use, and because it has more advanced analytical and reporting functions.