SANTA ANA, Cagayan: In an effort to boost skills and capabilities in conducting underwater resource assessment, at least 12 scuba divers completed a 4-day intensive training conducted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Cagayan Valley (Region 2).
Emma Ballad, BFAR-Cagayan Valley Fisheries Resource Management Section (FRMS) chief, said the training is aimed at improving the knowledge of its divers with updated and more accurate tools in conducting coral survey, and refreshing their knowledge in fish identification and census.
“The skills and knowledge are necessary in the regular monitoring and assessment of marine protected areas [MPAs], fish sanctuaries and other underwater areas in the Cagayan Valley region,” Ballad said.
Held earlier this month, the training “Coral Point Count with Excel Extension [CPCe] and Fish Visual Census Assessment and Analysis” was also participated in by divers from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in Isabela, the provincial government of Cagayan, and the local government of Gonzaga town in Cagayan.
Ballad said that the CPCe is a shift from a previous method that relies on visual acuity and memory of a diver to the use of transect photographs with spatially random points under a computer program.
“This method would increase the accuracy and efficiency of coral reef monitoring efforts because all the diver has to do this time is to take a picture of the coral reef then upload this to a computer with the use of a special software,” Ballad said.
She said the software has the ability to generate Excel sheets with summarized statistical analysis including image calibration of the photo, facilitating the identification of benthic features.
“New capabilities acquired in the training, along with a high resolution camera, would surely enable the bureau and other concerned offices to conduct a more speedy assessment of the region’s MPA sites,” Ballad added.
Max Prudencio, BFAR-Cagayan Valley information officer, said that in 2017, the bureau’s FRMS monitored and assessed 10 MPA sites in Taggat Norte in Claveria; Casitan, Tapel, and Matara in Gonzaga; and Palaui in Santa Ana, all in Cagayan, and in Minanga, Aplaya, Diana and Malasin in Maconacon and Bicobian in Divilacan, all in Isabela.
“All monitored MPA sites were in good and fair condition, except in Tapel in Gonzaga town which was assessed to be in poor condition,” Prudencio said.
BFAR-Cagayan Valley Director Milagros Morales said the monitoring of MPA sites and fish sanctuaries, and establishment of new ones, are among the top priorities of the bureau.
“We all know that these protected areas are essential for the recovery and sustainability of our fisheries and aquatic resources,” Morales said.