Evaluation of the effectiveness of three underwater reef fish monitoring methods in Fiji

Abstract

Locally based and volunteer-based monitoring approaches have recently received greater attention as a cost-effective way to collect data on the environment and/or involve stakeholders in management. The present study compared three monitoring methods based on an underwater visual census (UVC) of reef fish in a customary area in Navakavu (Viti Levu Island, Fiji). Two non-scientific approaches involved (1) snorkellers from the village using vernacular names for five local focal fish taxa and (2) non-resident volunteers using the Reef Check target list of fish for the Indo-Pacific (nine focal taxa). These approaches were cross-checked with a comprehensive scientific survey (all fish recorded at the species level across 12 families). The three methods were compared in terms of accuracy, precision, and ability to highlight changes in fish abundance between the community-managed no-take zone (NTZ) and the fished area. We found that scientific and volunteer-based data were consistent in terms of means and variance of abundance estimates but that Reef Check focal taxa would not be suitable for monitoring the Navakavu marine area. On the contrary, the locally selected target taxa were appropriate but overestimates and imprecision were noticed in the fish counts made by the community members. Differences in abundance of two major target taxa (Lethrinidae and Mullidae) between the NTZ and the harvest area were not validated by the scientific observations. Calibration of community-based UVC is thus needed especially if information from the local biological monitoring program is used to guide management actions.

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Abbreviations

CV:

Coefficient of variation

IRD:

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement

LMMA:

Locally managed marine area

NTZ(s):

No-take zone(s)

SD:

Standard deviation

USP:

University of the South Pacific

UVC:

Underwater visual census

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Coral Reef Initiative for the South Pacific (CRISP Program—www.crisponline.net). The authors thank B. Aalbersberg, J. Comley, D. Kaur, E. Lovell, C. Morris, L. Tamata, R. Simpson, and R. Vave from USP for their assistance in planning and conducting the survey. Thanks to H. Sykes for the Reef Check material. We would also like to thank F. Isimeli from the Mamanuca Environmental Society, and H. Rossini from Coral Cay Conservation for the fish visual census. We are also grateful to the fishermen and villagers from yavusa Navakavu and Muaivuso village for their welcome and participation in the fieldwork. We thank J. Ferraris and two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments on the original manuscript.

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Correspondence to Marc Léopold.

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Léopold, M., Cakacaka, A., Meo, S. et al. Evaluation of the effectiveness of three underwater reef fish monitoring methods in Fiji. Biodivers Conserv 18, 3367 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-009-9646-y

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Keywords

  • Community-based monitoring
  • Fiji
  • No-take zone
  • Underwater fish census
  • Sampling
  • Volunteer