Posted Sunday, 20th February 2011, by Marie Louise Pace, The Times of Malta, timesofmalta.com
Geographic Information Science can help identify areas important to fishermen with a view to managing them better and avoid conflicts between different users of the sea.
Geographic Information Science (GIS) involves capturing, storing and analysing different set of data and performing different queries according to one’s aims and objectives.
The use of GIS has become increasingly important in analysing data sets of different topics.
For example, with GIS, one can superimpose different layers, such as the basemap of Malta, its road network, and then the different modes of transport, such as bus routes.
When these layers are placed over each other, one can then use queries to analyse different criteria, for example, which is the fastest route from one location to another, or which route is best for bus transport.
My undergraduate dissertation was entitled ‘A comparative study of beach morphology between urban and rural environments: case studies – Għajn Tuffieħa and Balluta beaches’. Part of the dissertation required the use of GIS in order to analyse the data.
In this case, GIS was used to monitor the movement and erosion of a number of pebbles in the two mentioned areas.
Further studies on the subject together with the use of GIS, can lead to better management of the coasts. The use of GIS in the dissertation played an important part in my decision to pursue a Master’s degree in GIS.
The Master’s dissertation was entitled ‘Evaluating two different methods of deriving data layers of the commercial value of fishing activity using a combination of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and skipper log book data’.
The main aim of the dissertation was to assess different methods for redistributing the landings value from an International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) rectangle scale which covers an area of 0.5 ° latitude by 1° longitude, to a finer resolution-based one where the fishing activity is taking place as identified by the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data by developing and being able to automate a workflow.
By redistributing the value of landings to a finer resolution, better management and planning could be introduced in order to maintain and increase the socio-economic interest without endangering the environment.
Two different methods were used in order to identify which one was the most practical method to adapt in terms of time and money in representing the data and also the efficiency in dealing with different parameters.
The first method considered the total fishing effort (which is the time spent fishing in a particular area at a particular time) for all the vessels fishing within an ICES rectangle. The landings values were distributed proportionately to the effort for that rectangle as identified by the VMS.
The second method considered the landings value for each vessel and distributed them equally across all its VMS positions.
Moreover, a workflow for each method was also developed and automated using the Modelbuilder in Arc GIS.
The two methods were later on compared and analysed in order to see which method presented a more realistic result and which was the most practical to use in terms of time and money efficiency.
From the results obtained, it was shown that the second method could be more appropriate in distributing the landings value as it showed more accurate results.
The use of GIS in the Master’s dissertation aimed at developing a workflow whereby the user can input the required data and obtain results in a matter of a few minutes.
Since the ocean has no boundaries, by using the workflow, the user could identify areas that are important to fishermen in order with a view to managing them better. With better spatially managed areas, conflicts between different users of the sea could be reduced.
The use of GIS is becoming more important every day and is very useful in analysing data so that one can adopt better policies and better management, and make it easier to attain sustainable development.
Ms Pace M.Sc studies were partially funded by the Strategic Educational Pathways Scholarship (STEPS) programme, which is part financed by the European Union – European Social Fund (ESF) under operational programme II – Cohesion policy 2007-2013, ‘Empowering People for More Jobs and a Better Quality of Life’.