FLMMA Marine Monitoring Training Videos

This training video is based on the community-based biological monitoring training guide developed by the Institute of Applied Science (IAS) of the University of the South Pacific (USP) this training video is primarily for use by locally managed marine area network partners that is NGO partners and communities throughout Fiji and Asia Pacific region.

A Community Biological Marine Monitoring Training Video

People of the Pacific islands have a special relationship with the ocean for many generations the sea and its natural resources have represented livelihood and sustenance to island peoples.

As such the economies and lifestyles of all Pacific island nations depend upon the health and productivity of their coastal and marine resources.

Over time coastal and marine resources have come under increasing threat due to a variety of human and natural interactions.

Some of the human threats include

  • pollution from sewage fertilizers and solid wastes
  • siltation due to soil erosion from inappropriate land management practices such as clear cutting for road building agriculture and logging
  • overfishing of commercially valuable species such as bech de mer, giant clams, trochus and certain fish harvesting of live coral destructive fishing practices and
  • tourism activities and related developments

Of course catastrophic events such as tropical cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruption,s coral bleaching and crown of thorns starfish infestations also present serious threats.

Significantly declining fish stocks, and other marine resources ,seeking solutions to ever-growing threats more and more coastal communities have taken the necessary steps to gain a better understanding of their own fishing grounds realizing they can have measurable effects on their own fishing ground.

Many communities have developed their own customized management plans to take responsibility for increasing their fish stocks.

A no-take zone or tabu area as part of an overall locally managed marine area or lmma has gained wide acceptance as an effective tool to restore threatened marine and coastal species by allowing stocks and habitat to recover.

Emphasis is placed on locally managed in the belief that coastal dwelling communities have as much to offer as well as gain from taking responsibility for the management and regular monitoringof their own marine resources.

In years past some Pacific island coastal communities voluntarily closed off sections of their fishing ground designating tumble areas or no take zones now fishing grounds are closed due to declining fish stocks.

For many generations traditional fishing grounds have been closed and declared tumble for various reasons but with the ultimate goal of increasing fish stocks and catch.

In fiji for example the closing of a fishing ground and declaring tabu occurs upon the death of a chief or other influential village member.

Fishing grounds are more commonly closed among various Pacific island cultures in preparation for a special event requiring large quantities of fish such as a wedding or for the exchange with other communities of fish for agricultural crops often referred to as trade or barter

Biological monitoring has also long been done by scientists to learn things. In fiji we have found coastal dwellers can be trained to conduct continuous biological monitoring.

Biological monitoring helps coastal dwellers understand the health of their coastal area a primary food source in the late 80s and early 90s we found that the fishing ground had been very poor and we were lucky that to hold an awareness program with the university and the institute of applied science will help us to get away of what we’re doing so we have a marine protected areas.

We have found the elders who have been very supportive doing this for to regenerate the the fishing ground or the wealthy of the fishing run for children’s children.

Today biological monitoring brings together traditional methods which in some villages are still in practice with modern science for maximum success and results increase fish stocks in both number and size.

This video will show you how to conduct biological monitoring surveys for your fishing ground. It is intended for those communities that have already progressed through the LMMA project planning process or similar activities. This means you have participated in a type of community action planning workshop, developed a management plan for your fishing ground and are now ready to conduct regular biological monitoring surveys on your own.

Regular biological monitoring will help you determine if you are bringing home the same size and number of fish this year as in years past

The purpose of the monitoring is to help you assess if your catch is greater than or less than your recent experience this is especially important to see the effectiveness of the management plan action you might be taking such as declaring a tabu or no take area.

After your workshop you may want to review this video to remember all the different methods and steps necessary to conduct proper biological monitoring

What is biological monitoring?

Monitoring is simply watching or observing and counting a type of variable for a specific purpose or reason. Monitoring is done by many of us in our everyday lives for example you might count the number of people attending a meeting at the community hall to determine if the hall will accommodate a certain number of people expected to attend a future event

Or you might count the number of dalo or cassava plants you have planted to figure out how much income you can expect when it’s ready to harvest.

You might also count the number of hours of fishing necessary to catch an amount of fish to feed your family or the entire community for special feasts. That number of hours of fishing may be greater than it was last year at the same time or even two years ago.

Biological marine monitoring is the same except the watching observing and counting are centered around coastal and marine fishing grounds

How can biological marine monitoring help your community understand the current status of your fishing ground?

Biological monitoring will allow you to know:

  • What is in your fishing ground keep track of how many fish or clams or other marine resources are being taken from your fishing ground.
  • Understand which resources have been overfished or are highly desired and likely to be overfished such as hump head wrasse, beche de mar, and trochus
  • Measure and decide how your management actions as tabu results in increasing your catch determine if the community need for more and bigger fish is being met

You cannot count everything in your fishing ground for biological monitoring you need to choose one or two things that will be easy for you to count and measure to help answer the five questions previously noted. This is called your indicator species

In choosing your indicators you will also consider those marine resources that are important to your community if you have a management plan for your fishing area

One way to choose your indicators is to decide for each action what species is likely to be most affected and by how much the management plan may focus on increasing the numbers and or the size of one or more important species

For example one community in a mud flat area chose a species of small clam that is important to them as their indicator believing the numbers of clams would double each year as a result of their action plan.

You may also want to see how healthy your fishing ground is by measuring the percentage of live coral.

Indicator species will be different for each community based on which resources are valuable either commercially or for subsistence

We cannot observe all things everywhere and all the time we observe parts of the whole called sampling and from this sampling representative section we make conclusions and decisions about the whole area.

Sampling is done on only a section of the fishing ground because counting the entire area would be too time consuming require many people and be too costly.

Therefore we only monitor some parts of the total fishing area. In choosing which parts it is important to take all types of areas some that you think may have lots of the indicator species and some that do not.

At least five parts or sites each inside and outside the protected area is suggested to be surveyed and counted.

What are the benefits of tabu areas?

Since it is recommended that tabu areas remain permanently closed people benefit if the fish numbers and size increase in nearby fished or open areas. This is called spillover.

To judge the effectiveness of the tabu area you sample from two paired sites one within the tabu and one outside the tabu area called the control site.

This way you can compare the harvested population with a population in the no take area to see if there’s any difference and if so how much of a difference.

Many factors can and will affect the accuracy of the survey result these are:

  • time of day
  • tide
  • weather
  • method used
  • sampling plan
  • poor conditions such as bad weather low, tide
  • or time of day when identified species may be hiding

These should be taken into consideration when planning your sampling . The golden rule when doing follow-up or replicate surveys is to try to be as consistent as possible with the method used the sites and stations and the survey times and conditions.

When all of these methods are followed your results can be compared over time there are four main monitoring survey methods

  1. belt transect line
  2. transact with quadrat
  3. line transact with point intercept; and
  4. time count

The method used by your community will depend on the indicator species you have chosen.

For example if you choose a certain species of fish as your indicator species then the belt transect method will be used

A line transect with quadrat can be used for seagrass and coral cover or slow moving things that burrow in the mud like clams count.

Intercept line transact method is also another method used to determine the distribution of live or dead corals and or coral cover

Time count method is ideally used where doing transects is difficult for example mud crabs in a dense mangrove area or counting fish in a timed swim


Where the currents are strong it is much easier to communicate with each other and learn the correct procedure on dry land prior to doing the monitoring in the ocean.

For training purposes we will demonstrate the procedure for each method on dry land and you should also practice on dry land prior to entering the water.

For your official count for all surveys it is best done in fine weather remember while the work you’re doing can be fun there’s also an element of risk and danger in the water if you’re not a competent swimmer or not taking the work seriously.

Having a first aid kit as part of your materials is recommended

Safety, teamwork and cooperation with your survey team is critical for a successful result.

Now let’s review the four methods.

Belt transect method

The belt transact method is used to determine the number of fish and other marine resources that move around on the reef and the invertebrates that can easily be seen while snorkeling

Belt refers to counting the number of fish in a defined width on both sides . From where you are imagine a belt being laid out across the ocean floor.

For belt transects ensure that the water is deep enough to swim without touching the reef

Materials needed are 100 meter measuring tape or 100 meter rope knotted, every 5 or 10 meters, a compass, waterproof paper, pencil, a bulldog clip, rubber bands and snorkeling gear.

The belt transect method requires between three to five people acting as monitors. The recording slate will have spaces to record site compass bearings date monitors time starting point and a column listing the number of counting stops and then a column for each fish or invertebrate to be counted

A line is put in the appropriate box to show one count.

The belt transact monitoring method consists of the following steps

  1. lay out 100 meters of measuring tape or rope on the desired area making sure it is done properly make sure the measuring tape is straight and not tangled in the coral. Be careful not to crush or break any coral when laying the transect line or quadrant and while doing the survey. Try not to anchor or step on the coral since you’ll be monitoring these areas over time
  2. it would be good to think about having a fixed point for laying out the transact lines like a bouy or a permanent underwater marker to be able to start at the same point for repeat surveys
  3. you need to take at least two compass readings from your starting points to landmarks on land
  4. position may also be marked with a buoy or natural marker such as an unusual coral head but be sure these markers will remain in place and can be relocated
  5. you can also use the compass bearing or direction in which you lay your measuring tape and all further changes of direction
  6. the trainer will need to teach you how to use the compass
  7. for this record the position and compass reading on your log sheet

15 minutes after laying the tape when fish have returned after being disturbed by people laying the tape start counting the fish.

One diver records on one side of the line followed by another on the other side. Alternatively diver one can record the first 20 meter segment while diver 2 can do the second 20 meter segment and so on.

If there are fewer monitors one person can do all the counting or two people side by side can count fish and compare results.

Care is needed to avoid double counting at every five meter stop count the fish for three minutes within a five meter corridor, 2.5 meters on either side of the meter tape.

Before moving to the next stop do not count fish outside the 2.5 meter sampling area you can use two full arms length slightly shorter than 2.5 meters as a guide to check on sampling boundary.

Fish sizes can also be estimated.

After completing 100 meters you can move to a second starting point noting the distance and compass bearing and repeat the above process.

It is recommended that this transact be done 5 to 10 times within the reserve area depending on the size of the area and the same number of transects to be done in the non-reserve area.

Communities can select at least two species that are important to them as their monitoring indicator rather than counting all fish types they come across.

These selected indicators need to be counted and recorded both in the reserve area and the non-reserve area.

Now that you’ve carried out your training on land you can use the same procedure while snorkeling.

  1. lay out 100 meters of measuring tape on the desired area making sure it is done properly
  2. record your starting point by taking a compass reading
  3. after a lapse of 15 minutes when the divers no longer disturb the area start counting the fish
  4. after every five meter stop count the fish for three minutes within
  5. a five meter corridor, 2.5 meters on either side of the meter tape before moving to the next stop

The line transect with quadrant method

The line transect with quadrat method is used to determine substrate types and cover and the population of non-moving marine species.

Substrate cover could be the presence or absence of hard and soft coral which may be alive or dead sea grass and the percentage of coverage can be measured.

Shellfish or sea urchins are examples of organisms normally counted by this method

Materials needed are a 100 meter measuring tape or 100 meter rope knotted every 5 meters a compass a waterproof result sheet or data sheet or recording slate pencil a quadrant and snorkeling gear

Line quadrant method requires between four to five monitors.

The line transact with quadrant monitoring consists of the following steps:

  1. lay out 100 meters of measuring tape or rope on the desired area
  2. in most cases this is the same transact laid out and used in the belt transact to count fish
  3. be careful not to step on or break any coral when laying the transact line or quadrat or while doing the survey
  4. record your starting point on the slate as described for the belt method using triangulation and a compass bearing
  5. lay the quadrat every 10 meters starting from 0 meters
  6. the one square meter quadrant is divided by string into 100 equal squares on the inside
  7. the string squares are used for measuring coral and seagrass cover for slow moving marine resources use the quadrat
  8. without the strings count the target species being monitored within the quadrat
  9. do not count outside the quadrat
  10. use a meter tape or ruler for measuring invertebrae size or to determine size class

For habitat health or substrate monitoring

  1. use a quadrant divided by string into 100 equal squares for each square
  2. determine which type of cover is dominant and record on your slate in the appropriate column
  3. continue the process every 10 meters on the 100 meter tape and then repeat 5 times as in the belt method

After properly carrying out the survey on land you are now ready to apply the method underwater following the steps

  1. carefully lay out the 100 meter line underwater
  2. make sure the line is secure and not tangled
  3. lay your quadrat first at 0 meters and carry on at every 10 meters
  4. for each square determine which type of cover is dominant and record on your slate in the appropriate column

The point intercept online transact

The point intercept online transact method is another method specifically used to measure the health and distribution of coral reefs.

It can be used as an alternative to measuring coral cover using a quadrat on the line transect described earlier.

Materials needed are:

  • a 100 meter measuring tape
  • a compass a waterproof
  • result sheet or data sheet on recording slate
  • and snorkeling gear

Point intercept line transact method requires only one to two monitors, the same 100 meter transact laid for the belt transact method to count fishand the recording starting point will be used for this purpose .

The following additional steps can be employed for every half a meter :

  1. identify what substrate is directly beneath that point
  2. record substrate types onto recording sheet for each stop
  3. substrate types can be generally classified as live or dead coral or specifically as reef check indicators such as live hard coral recently killed coral soft coral and bleached coral fleshy seaweed sponge rock rubble sand silt and algae
  4. continue the process on the 20 or 100 meter tape
  5. and then repeat 5 times as in the belt transact survey method for a 20 meter transact
  6. there will be 40 points sampled and the percentage substrate covers such as live hard coral can be calculated by dividing the number of times it appears on the transact by 40 and multiplying it by 100

You are now ready to apply the method underwater

lay out the 100 meter line under water

for every half a meter identify what substrate is directly beneath that point

record substrate types onto recording sheet for each stop

The time count method

The time count method is considered to be a rapid assessment survey method. It is used to measure how many marine resources that can be harvested in a specific time frame such as 30 minutes

For example a timed snorkel observing and recording the selected indicator species is a time count method as is a timed walk through mangroves observing and counting mangrove crabs.

Materials needed are:

  • a map of the fishing ground a clock or watch
  • a whistle
  • paper and a pen
  • again the recording sheet needs to be prepared in advance to record all important information

The time count method consists of the following steps

  1. divide the area to be monitored on the map according to the number of monitors available
  2. for example with five monitors you will have five areas for each area
  3. a starting point is determined and roughly how long it might take to move through that area
  4. the time is agreed to and noted
  5. start the survey by blowing the whistle and stop the survey when the whistle is blown again at the end of the allocated time
  6. during this time the monitor moves randomly in the area recording the indicator or target organism seen

The follow-on survey should be carried out in the same sampling sites surveyed earlier and ideally by the same observers. Remember also for checking MPA effectiveness the monitoring survey will be done inside and outside the MPA.

Catch per unit effort or CPUE

Another form of timed count is catch per unit effort or cpue when people go out fishing or collecting and they return you record the total catch and the total time taken to get the amount they came back with.

This is only possible in open areas.

CPUE is the number of fish caught divided by the total hours of fishing if two people fish for four hours each this is eight hours of effort.

In tabu areas you will need to use the visual time count to monitor as you are not allowed to catch or collect from the tabu area.

Field practice will give you more experience and greater confidence in conducting biological marine surveys.

Each team is to organize data collection using agreed sampling design from both the tabu area and the adjacent harvest areas.

Using the respective methods they selected then go out and do the survey as soon as you get out of the water from your survey.

Record the data you have collected

The next step is to keep the data you have collected safe and dry copy the raw data from your wet result sheet or slate onto a dry field record book

Always keep your field record book in a safe dry place it is recommended that you make several copies of the same data with members of the monitoring team

Should any get lost or destroyed after you have made extra copies send one of those copies to your partner organization

Your partner organization will also take this information and keep it safe as a backup.

If a computer is available in your community the data can also be entered into it and saved but don’t rely on just the computer record, keep your field record book as a backup

You must also understand what the data is telling you about your fishing ground the data should also be presented to your community so everyone understands why the monitoring is being done and what the results are of any management actions being taken over time the record will be important i Information for your community so they can see the changes taking place in your fishing ground

what does the data mean

how are the results analyzed and interpreted

To make your monitoring and data collection efforts useful you must keep the data safe and understand what the data means to you and your community members for your knowledge and to share with others the data must be analyzed first

You will summarize the data for example add up all the count marks for each indicator species from each quadrant or transect stops. Then you add them up for each 100 meter transect

For habitat health monitoring survey you will take the sum of the substrate type cover from each 100 squares in each quadrant and the percentage of cover is determined for a 100 meter transact you will average the percentages for each substrate cover at the 10 transact stops

These numbers will be compared to the data from future monitoring to determine whether the tabu area or the MPA is working to increase stocks and improve habitat for presentation to your community

A visual representation of the data will mean more to them than just numbers a rectangle called a histogram is made to illustrate or visualize results where the height represents the number of selected indicator fish or percentage of habitat cover for substrate.

Cover percentages can also be shown in a pie chart where the 360 degrees of the pie is divided based on the percentage cover shown.

For example 30 is 30 of 360 or 108 degrees an instrument to measure the degree called a protractor will be needed you will need to explain how to do this with the community monitors and have them practice with their data until they know how to do these visual presentations.

Having histograms also allow you to compare the data for example having the data of the tabu area next to the fished area.

When you have done follow-up surveys you can also compare the results from one year to the next to see if the numbers of fish are increasing.

In summary, this training video emphasizes that :

  1. the tabu area or no take areas as part of locally managed action plan can be effective tools to improve local marine resources
  2. monitoring will help you determine if the management actions you are taking are increasing your marine stocks and or improving habitat
  3. monitoring methods commonly used include belt transact line transact with quadrat, point intercept transact and timed count and for data storage analysis and presentation of results are equally important activities to help you and your community learn what is happening to your marine resources as a result of your management actions

Throughout the Asia-Pacific region everyone in the village is a steward of your natural resources those of you involved in the management of the fishing ground are resource custodians

All resource custodians are encouraged to use this video to refresh yourselves for the purpose of monitoring your fishing grounds and proper ways of conducting this very important responsibility.

At least once a year you review data with your community and see what it tells you about how useful the management actions are and if they need to be changed or modified

Your consistent efforts through monitoring will contribute to management decisions in increasing your catch remember information you gather will make a difference in managing and sustaining your marine resources today and tomorrow.

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