March 20, 2012 -- Western Australia’s Department of Fisheries has turned to cutting-edge Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to help manage the Abrolhos Islands: a key source of catch and breeding stock for Western Australia’s $400 million rock lobster industry.

The 122 islands that make up the Abrolhos are also one of the Indian Ocean's most important seabird breeding locations, as well as the home of a small, but valuable, tourism industry and the site of several aquaculture farms.

Fisheries Spatial Data Manager Brett Harrison said the GIS technology, developed by location intelligence specialists Esri Australia was playing a vital role in ensuring the ongoing sustainability of these local industries and the protection of a unique natural environment.

“The Abrolhos is special in that it is a high-value, multiple-use, conservation, heritage and primary industry asset situated in a remote location,” Mr Harrison said.

“Esri Australia’s GIS solution acts as a single point of truth for our planning, management and research processes for this area. “Information fed into the GIS includes fisheries management boundaries, conservation areas, heritage sites, species habitats and breeding grounds, aquaculture leases and tourism locations to name a few.

“We also have all fishing licence, lease and registration details stored in the GIS, which is linked to locations and information relating to the infrastructure and camps owned by fishermen and aquaculturists, creating a comprehensive central data warehouse.

“Policy officers and researchers have access to this location-based data and can switch it on and off as needed through a common map view.”

Esri Australia Business Manager Tom Gardner said Fisheries could also incorporate data relating to external factors that affect the management of the Abrolhos – such as where Local, State and Commonwealth legislation is in effect.

“Viewing this data via the universally understood medium of a map enables staff to see where boundaries overlap and make decisions about where, when and what uses are incompatible and how to minimise any negative impact,” Mr Gardner said.

“Fisheries staff can also model projected changes to a particular boundary, for example, the impact that expanding tourism development may have on commercial fishing practices or wildlife in the same area.

“In this way, the GIS technology serves as a valuable tool in balancing Abrolhos heritage, environmental and tourism interests with its commercial fishing and aquaculture industries.”

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