When the cat is away, the mouse will play: maximising effectiveness of marine enforcement and monitoring in the 21st century

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Tom B Letessier

Behavioural and Population Ecology Theme, IOZ

Tom B Letessier's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Kate Jones

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Additional Supervisor(s):
Anthony Dancer (ZSL, Conservation & Policy)

Project Description:

Large no-take Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) need effective enforcement and patrolling, in order to ensure global food security and conservation outcomes. Managers are increasingly compelled to allocate their patrol assets economically, in order to deter Illegal and Unreported Fisheries (IUU). Conversely, patrol efforts provide opportunities for wildlife monitoring (ie patrol-based monitoring, https://smartconservationtools.org/) in remote areas, which are costly to survey but harbour the world’s dwindling wildlife refuges. There remains considerable uncertainty regarding the limitations and validity of data stemming from patrol-based monitoring.
A few documented examples exist of terrestrial rangers effectively deterring poachers, but evidence of similar impact in the marine realm is so far lacking. Recently, the advent of technology such as Automatic Identification System and Synthetic Aperture Radar has revolutionised the field of fisheries tracking, offering powerful avenues through which deterrence behaviour could be detected. For example, dispersal and avoidance behaviour could be modelled through machine learning, combining IUU (‘the mouse’) with patrol position and route data (‘the cat’). Using case studies in coastal and remote MPAs, such as in Fiji, Belize, and in the British Indian Ocean Territory, this project will address critical knowledge gap surrounding patrolling credibility and patrol-based monitoring. The effectiveness of different patrolling scenarios will be explored to maximise deterrence and compliance, and wildlife monitoring, across human accessibility and pressure gradients.

Policy Impact of Research:

Marine Protected Areas are a key requirement to meet global conservation targets, but need credible enforcement and governance to ensure effective deterrence of illegal fishing activity. By taking an analytical and geostasticial approach to compliance and patrol-based monitoring this project will develop patrolling strategies that directly guide policy around MPA enforcement and wildlife monitoring.

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