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From "Voices of Members" at a Regular Meeting of WIN

Application of Information Technology to the Conservation of Marine Ecosystems

NIO NAKAZAWA (Japan Seabird Group: JSG)

Ms. Nakazawa is a systems engineer who also works as a volunteer for both the Japan Environmental Disaster Information Center (JEDIC) and JSG. She is interested in using information technology to conserve marine ecosystems.

JEDIC is a group that aims to protect ecosystems and wild animals from environmental disasters such as oil spills. The collision of a Russian tanker, Nahotoka, in the Japan Sea in 1997 directly prompted the founding of JEDIC. After initial preparation and organization, JEDIC was established in May 2000. As an association of groups concerned with maritime and environmental affairs, the members of JEDIC include organizations such as the Japan Association of Marine Safety, the Wild Bird Society of Japan and JSG. The main activities of JEDIC are regular meetings involving lectures and presentations by representatives of, for example, the Fisheries Agency, the Ministry of the Environment and nature conservation groups from foreign countries. These regular meetings play an essential role in the exchange of opinions and in the development networks among the various groups.

The Japan Seabird Group, on the other hand, promotes the exchange and dissemination of information, sponsors activities that enlighten people about marine ecosystems and their conservation, and conducts investigations and other research into marine ecosystem conservation. JSG members are amateurs and researchers with an interest in seabirds. The current problem in protecting seabirds is that many of the endangered seabird species reproduce on remote islands or reefs and live on the ocean after reproduction. Though seabirds are affected by human activities, people have hardly noticed their decrease because humans rarely approach the birds' environments. The decreases in seabird populations are caused by factors in both the breeding areas and in the oceans. The reduction of available breeding areas is obviously a factor, but so is damage to the breeding areas from seagulls and wildcats. The influences of seagulls and wildcats are especially serious in Japan. In the ocean, on the other hand, marine pollution and fisheries are factors. Bycatch is one of the main effects of fisheries, in which seabirds are accidentally caught by fishing nets together with fish. However, there is a lack of the kinds of data that will be necessary for the conservation of seabirds, since they live on remote islands and reefs.

By the way, since information technology has become lighter and smaller for both position detection instruments and other types of devices used on land, we expect that similar devices for use at sea will be developed, and we are especially interested in those that will monitor marine ecosystems. For example, a long-term investigation into the harmful effects of tourist vessels, crows or wildcats on endangered common murres using remote cameras was once proposed, but problems of cost, battery life and salt damage prevented the investigation from getting underway. New technology will help us resolve these obstacles, clearing the way for important research.

In addition to developing IT, applying IT to the conservation of marine ecosystems is also necessary. Among the different ideas that Ms. Nakazawa is interested in pursuing, one is to position automatic video cameras on ocean-going vessels to investigate the distribution of seabirds on the ocean. To study areas that are remote from regular sea lanes, satellites could be used instead. Moreover, installing PHS or GPS terminals on large seabirds may be useful for studying the distributional areas of those birds. However, this would require terminals that are resistant to water, salt and pressure, and it would require substantial numbers of base stations. Indirect investigation of small birds, on which terminals can't be installed, may be achieved by installing terminals on other large sea mammals: when such mammals surface for air, it should be possible to sometimes observe small seabirds through the terminals.

Ms. Nakazawa wants to do her best in the effort to protect seabirds.



(Presented at the regular meeting on March 22, 2001.)

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