Sighting and stranding network
The marine megafauna including sea turtles provides valuable ecosystem services as most are keystone species whose extinction would more likely lead to the imbalance of the community. Although most of these flagship species are admired by many, their populations remain threatened by increasing anthropogenic activities. Data on aquatic megafauna necessary for their protection is scant as compared to their terrestrial homolog; the reason being the complexity and the high cost of data collection, and limited financial resources. The lack of scientific skills, in addition to poverty in developing African countries, makes data collection even more challenging, while hunting pressures remain concerning. Without an efficient monitoring system, aquatic megafauna populations may go extinct unnoticed.
In our first attempt to cost-effectively address data scarcity, we established the Siren network made up of about 30 fishermen along the Cameroon coast in 2012. This allowed us to successfully report on marine mammal sightings and carcasses using datasheets and phone calls. However, this reporting system was flawed as it lacked essential data such as GPS location, time and photos for identification purpose. Moreover, data sheets were time-consuming for fishermen.
The objective of the Siren App is to empower fishermen to easily and quickly collect more accurate data and remotely send the information to a server where the data is automatically processed and shared with the public and decision-makers. We developed the Siren App and made it available for free on both the iOS and Android mobile platforms, in English and French.
The Siren App enables the collection and recording of marine mammal sighting data including date, time, GPS location, photo and name of the species, number of animals observed, habitat, behavior and weather status. The collected data is stored locally on the phone, uploaded to a server as soon as the user’s phone is connected to the internet and finally displayed on our interactive Web map for consultation.
Once validated, the data collected will provide reliable information about the distribution and trends of the populations. Furthermore, identified hotspots will be used for ecotourism and education purposes.