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Sharks

Smile – You’re on the Reef Cam! Researchers to Roll Out 400 Underwater Cameras

posted: 07/07/15
by: Danny Clemens

An international team of marine biologists today announced the launch of Global FinPrint, a research initiative that aims to capture underwater video of sharks and rays in coral reefs.

Over the next three years, biologists will plant baited underwater cameras in 400 coral reefs in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. The project will help researchers better understand the role that sharks play in marine ecosystems, a role that we "understand remarkably little about", according to Dr. Aaron MacNeil, of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

The team behind the projects notes that a "lack of consistent surveys" has hindered large-scale conservation efforts. The alarmingly high rate of habitat destruction and overfishing has depleted many shark species before they could be adequately studied; thus, for many species, there are no clear benchmarks for population targets.

Whitetip shark
atese/thinkstock

Using the footage collected, biologists will compare how sharks interact with different coral reefs, taking note of factors like coral cover, fish population and water temperature, to guide conservation efforts.

Spearheaded by AIMS and James Cook University, the project also enrolls researchers from Stony Brook University, Florida International University and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, amongst others.

"We will fund and enable networks of collaborators across the globe to participate in the work. Ultimately, this will be a project that involves a very wide cross-section of the community of researchers and stakeholders, including citizen scientists. Our project doesn't just seek to document, we also seek to enable local researchers and to build capacity for better management outcomes" explained AIMS researcher Dr. Mark Meekan in a news release.

Upon completion of the study, the team will make the data publicly available.

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