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Marine Survey: Sharks, Rays, Skates and Underwater Video

Jul 08, 2015 12:47 PM EDT

The first global survey of sharks, rays and skates will begin in August. It is called Global FinPrint and will survey those related fish in coral reef ecosystems in more than 400 locations worldwide, for three years.

The survey is the largest of its kind and designed to provide data essential to building effective conservation programs, said a release.

A team led by Dr. Demian Chapman of Stony Brook University, Long Island, N.Y., will place "baited remote underwater video (BRUVs)" in locations to observe and count sharks and other marine life. They'll cover coral reef systems in the Indo-Pacific, tropical western Atlantic, southern and eastern Africa and Indian Ocean islands.

"Global FinPrint will help us better understand one of the ocean's great mysteries: What is happening with fragile marine ecosystems when sharks are removed?" said Dr. Chapman in a press release. "Are coral reefs healthier or faster to recover from disturbances like coral bleaching or hurricanes because they have sharks?  These are hugely important questions. Many countries rely on healthy coral reefs for food security, tourism and coastal protection."

Five other leading shark conservation researchers will collaborate on the Global FinPrint initiative, including Dr. Mike Heithaus, Florida International University; Dr. Colin Simpfendorfer, James Cook University and IUCN Shark Specialist Group Co-Chair; and Drs. Michelle Heupel, Aaron MacNeil and Mark Meekan, Australian Institute of Marine Science. Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, is providing significant funding for the project. His company, Vulcan, will provide the open-access database platform so researchers can share and use info to better understand and hopefully protect shark habitats. They're planning to have the data available by summer 2018, according to a release.

If you'd like to see a video of the Global FinPrint project, click on the Geekwire link here. 

Learn more about Global FinPrint at their website

Follow Catherine at @TreesWhales

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