A two-day forum was held in Perth in July 2017 to establish a national working group to progress cooperation and collaboration between agencies and universities involved in BRUV-based research and monitoring programs. Such cooperation and collaboration is essential to ensure acquired data is suitable for national objectives, such as SOE reporting and monitoring of Australian Marine Parks. It is also essential for the establishment of shared data infrastructure, such as “Global Archive”, and adoption of standard operating protocols as widely as possible, allowing fullest integration of data and monitoring programs between State and Commonwealth agencies.
The forum reviewed current programs around Australia to familiarise participants with the widely varying adoption nationally, as well as the range of protocols currently in use. It identified major gaps in spatial coverage that needed filling as a high priority, including the Great Australian Bight, the Coral Sea, and northern waters from Darwin to the Gulf of Carpentaria. When reviewing protocols, it found that most agencies are adopting broadly similar protocols, and that some differences, such as bait types, are often unavoidable (but may not overly bias results). Some of the major differences related to the use of mono vs stereo, and use of subsets of species for length and/or abundance estimates.
Possible reporting metrics for State of the Environment (SOE) and similar programs were discussed, and it was agreed that many of the metrics recently developed/reviewed for UVC surveys by the NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub were also highly applicable to BRUV data. However, as many of these metrics involve biomass estimation, and estimates across the full set of species present, it was realised that many of the current programs do not have sufficient data across these measures to allow indicator metrics to be readily developed at national scales without revisiting the acquired video (and size is not possible from mono video, prohibiting biomass estimation).
A review of the extent of temporal datasets that may be of use for SOE reporting indicated that many jurisdictions were in an early stage of development, with few programs having data series in excess of three years. The notable exception being NSW MPAs, with a 7-year time series. Hence, BRUV programs are as yet a few years away from making a significant contribution to SOE assessment at national scales, but are likely to do so in the future, particularly as MPA networks and associated monitoring programs (State and Commonwealth) provide the spatial and management frameworks necessary to underpin sound SOE assessments.