Data collected from resource users like commercial and recreational fishermen is invaluable for informing fisheries management and marine habitat protection. Open OceanMap is a data collection tool used to effectively collect local expert knowledge in support of marine spatial planning. Using open source technologies, Ecotrust has developed Open OceanMap as a cross platform and transferable tool, published under the GNU General Public License.
Successful marine area management is often inhibited by a general lack of data, whether use type or habitat type data. By engaging local stakeholders about the value they place on specific areas of the ocean, this data can support spatial planning that protects the marine environment while minimizing impacts on port communities. Open OceanMap allows us to collect and compile ecological and economic data through an intuitive 100-pennies stakeholder interview process. The tool provides interviewees with a web-based interface to review and verify information and aggregates data to ensure confidentiality. We then incorporate the survey results into our spatial and economic analyses.
Ecotrust has developed and refined Open OceanMap through use in several projects. In 2005, Ecotrust was retained by California's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative staff to collect and provide spatially explicit information about numerous coastal fisheries. This project supports the California state legislature's directive to design and manage a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the 1,100 miles of state coastal waters by 2011. Using Open OceanMap to collect the data, Ecotrust staff continues to interview hundreds of fishermen in the five coastal regions of the MLPA. In the Loreto National Marine Parkregion of Baja California (Mexico), Ecotrust is supporting Comunidad y Biodiversidad A.C. (COBI) to utilize Open OceanMap in evaluating marine protected area networks. COBI will use Open OceanMap with stakeholders that include recreationists and scientists, as well as fishermen. Recently, interest has developed in deploying Open OceanMap to support projects in the Bering Sea and Oregon.
OceanMap, a standalone software module developed by Environmental Defense Fund, provides the basic functionality that Ecotrust has transformed into Open OceanMap. We used the open source software solution PyQt to write the Open OceanMap application in Python — which allows for distribution on any desktop platform — utilizing the highly scalable and very popular QT system. We used the Python bindings to the QGIS open source desktop GIS system to provide a mapping component to the application. Additionally, we utilized an open source installer framework called INNO to create a fully functional Windows-based installer for the application. Open OceanMap now includes a companion QA/QC tool with a web-based interface, allowing interviewees to log in and verify the information they provided and, if needed, supply comments to the analysts responsible for reviewing the data.