In one sense we really don't know how to do long term monitoring of spawning aggregations, as we do not necessarily know what is the essential information to acquire now that we will want in the future. It is, therefore, better to document as many things as possible, in a thorough, quantitative and repeatable manner, in the hopes we are doing the right things now, following clear and simple guidelines and adopting sound scientific principles. Since we are seeing a general decline in spawning aggregations worldwide (there are relatively few that are growing or recovering), we should work to gather as much baseline information as possible now.
If a firm basis for monitoring is established, then long term monitoring becomes feasible. Maps, GPS location information, other "hard" documentation is crucial. Our technology of obtaining this information may improve significantly in the future, but today we need to do the best job we can with the tools available.
Finally, we know little about the recovery of aggregations, once fished out. Protection has been applied to some areas that no longer support aggregations and we can learn some very important lessons from watching what happens to such areas. Will such areas ever recover? Once protection is in place, they will come back? In Palau, one aggregation that was possibly fished out was subsequently protected and shows signs of recovery, although too little is known of its natural, pre-fished, state to be able to evaluate the significance of the changes taking place. It is very tempting to focus just on aggregations that still appear to be in good condition but, given the very likely connectivity between reefs and possibly between aggregations, it is also important to consider the need to restore seriously depleted or even extirpated aggregations as part of the bigger picture. Therefore, the monitoring of extirpated sites is useful and important, especially in areas where the populations of aggregating species appear to be depleted and where aggregations were once substantial. It might seem like a futile exercise (the authors have all been through it many times), but the importance in the medium to long term might be great.