Article by ONBOARD Magazine
The Mediterranean Sea is a biodiversity hot spot, but unfortunately many species are under threat. Eleana Touloupaki outlines a number of conservation actions undertaken by MEDASSET
Considering the vastness of the ocean, the heterogeneity of habitats and species, the limited available marine scientists and human resources hinder the collection of all the data required to carry out marine science research, the contribution of Citizen Science is highly valued within marine research.
Marine Citizen Science is especially helpful in answering questions that have a large spatial or temporal scope such as mapping and monitoring species ranges across extensive geographic areas.
SEAlly© is a mobile application that has been created in the framework of the project ‘Fishers, Sea turtles & Sharks: Alliance for Survival’, coordinated by MEDASSET-Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles, in partnership with iSea, to actively involve and engage citizens. On 14th May MEDASSET celebrated the Mediterranean Action Day 2019 to promote citizen science by organising ‘Sailing Against Bycatch’ event. SEAlly© was officially presented in an action that perfectly combined the information, field experience and citizen science.
The action was implemented on a sailing boat, which departed from a marina on the Athens coastline and sailed off into the Saronic Gulf. During the sailing, the problem of bycatch and the necessity behind the development of the application was analyzed in detail, its operation and capabilities were presented, as well as its recordings from Greece and abroad. The aim of the action was to have a ‘look and feel’ approach followed by its practical exploitation on board, with the possible recording of species sighted at sea. Representatives of Civil Society (fishers, NGOs, foundations, sailors, etc.) participated in the action and presented their perspective and experience through participatory processes, both for the problem of incidental captures and on the issues of sustainable management of the marine ecosystem. Both this action and SEAlly© aim, among other things, to strengthen the role of citizens in the collection of primary scientific data, a perspective which is listed in the EU’s main guiding principles. An unexpected surprise during the sailing cruise was the encounter of a rare marine species, the common dolphin, which to the delight of all, we observed several behaviors such as sleeping, mating and feeding.
SEAlly© is the first mobile application that allows multi-taxa recording (sea turtles and sharks) whose abundance is not well known. Its ‘target group’ are fishers, port authorities, divers, sailing community and all sea lovers interested in the protection of marine ecosystems.
The easy-to-use and interactive design of the application enables the user to input information and data about the geographic location of a sea turtle and/or a shark sighting, their species, the condition in which they were found or other specific features (eg gender). Furthermore, the application allows the use of the mobile’s camera to instantly capture images of the observations. In addition, the user has the ability to view other users’ records apart from his or her own.
The collection of these valuable scientific data will help to study and mitigate the impacts of bycatch on sea turtle and shark populations. At the same time, through networking and co-operation with relevant projects and initiatives, the application aspires to contribute to scientific research and data input at Mediterranean level, with the ultimate goal of protecting and conserving sea turtles and sharks.
SEAlly© is available on android & iOS and users are able to download it for free. To find out how you can support MEDASSET-Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles, visit www.medasset.org and follow MEDASSET on social media