Fisheries decision making with Fish SPACE

Fish SPACE is a software application for environmental managers and planners that shows the effects on fish stocks and fisheries of different marine reserve designs and fisheries management options.

Developed by The Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman, under the leadership of Dr Vera Horigue, Fish SPACE has been developed in the Philippine context where getting fisheries management right is critical because many Filipinos depend on fishing for their livelihoods.   

“Overfishing, is really rampant in the Philippines,” said Vera. “Our fishing industry boomed in the 1960s and that's why a lot of our fishing grounds are overfished because Filipinos depend a lot on fish for protein and income.”

In the late 1970s the first community-based marine protected areas (MPAs) were established to help conserve fishing grounds. Now, more than 1,600 MPAs exist across the archipelago. Fish SPACE would be most useful to MPA managers at the local and provincial levels, enabling them to test the likely outcomes of different management decisions.

“Fish SPACE is a spatially explicit model for coral reef fisheries,” said Vera. “It can be used to explore the effects of different scenarios, such as the establishment of a marine reserve or a reduction in fish intensity, to see how they would affect fish stocks and, in turn, the fishers.”

Many of the existing MPAs are too small to effectively sustain fisheries and, in turn, supply the fishers who depend on them. Fishing intensity is also quite high, which reduces the effectiveness of existing MPAs.

Fish SPACE can be used to help communicate this sort of information to help improve long-term planning and achieve better outcomes.

“Using Fish SPACE, local planners can adjust the number of fishers, or you have the same number of fishers, but change their catch rate – in each case you can enter the variables and see the results,” said Vera. “Because Fish SPACE is spatial, people can really see what might happen if they do protect particular areas. That's why I think this work is really meaningful and exciting.”

As part of the Rebuilding reef fisheries with marine protected areas (MPAs) toolbox, Fish SPACE complements other CCRES tools that focus on optimising the size and placement MPAs.

More information: Dr Vera Horigue