Sharks are popular among the public mostly for the media advertised ‘killing sprees’ such as the Shark Week recently covered on the U.S. East Coast.
But little is known that they are in fact a key factor in marine ecosystems, and their population is declining yearly, leading to imbalances in the ecosystems where they are typically found.
To help map the world’s shark population and promote understanding and conservation efforts, a new overarching project is being set in place, with Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder spearheading the effort.
The new project, titled Global FinPrint is ambitious. Mapping and conserving the shark population worldwide and the threats sharks face in terms of fishing, climate change, pollution is not little work.
That is why Global FinPrint, started with an investment of four million dollars will span an initial period of three years. Vulcan Inc. under the leadership of Paul Allen announced that the effort will certainly continue after the initial three years, also depending on further investment.
Vulcan Inc., private investment company, is also marked the initiative Great Elephant Census which aims to combat the extinction of elephants in Africa and promote elephant population conservation.
Global FinPrint will not only survey sharks, but also rays as well as skates found in the coral reef ecosystems. The project is bound to start in August, with underwater baits and cameras already being placed in key locations.
The technology underpinning Global FinPrint is known as baited remote underwater video or Bruv. Bruv in non-invasive and doesn’t inflict harm on the subjects, consisting of usual fish bait and two attached GoPro cameras placed at 10 to 100 meters underwater in as much as 400 locations in the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Ocean islands, south and east Africa as well as tropical western Atlantic.
Paul Allen saw fit the Global FinPrint brings together renowned researchers from across the globe to aid with the mapping of shark, rays and skates populations and build a coherent conservation program.
Paul Allen and Vulcan Inc. are greatly helped by Dune Ives, who is the senior director of philanthropy at Vulcan Inc. Dune Ives declared that the idea for Global FinPrint sparked after she attended a summit in 2014 concerning oceans. One key topic which clearly posed difficulties to attendees was the decline of the shark population.
Dune Ives commented:
“No one knew the answers. There were bits and pieces of research that had already been done, but I wasn’t able to find a source for why”.
The lead researchers for Global FinPrint is Demian Chapman, renowned shark researcher of Stony Brook University, New York. Mr. Chapman intends to use the opportunity provided by the initiative to gain rich insight on the relationship between shark and ray populations and the coral reefs ecosystems they inhabit. One question that should be answered is why are sharks so important for the coral reefs’ health.
“We think some sharks are apex predators, like the lions or tigers or wolves of the ocean. They help keep the balance of the ecosystem”.
While much has been written about the predators that chunk down humans at their whim, not as much has been published about the fact that 100 million sharks disappear on a yearly basis because of humans who kill them for sport or simply by accident.
The Bruvs that are already in place can be found in Belize and the Bahamas:
“The Bahamas will be interesting to study because they haven’t commercially fished sharks in over 20 years”,
David Chapman stated.
Also interesting is that a large part of the shark population disappears yearly as the middle class in China rises. Here, shark fin soup is a symbol of the middle class’s wealth.
Global FinPrint is the first worldwide initiative that pins shark population and its importance, as well as conservation efforts consequently. The results will be made available via open-access database.
Sharing the findings builds a higher interest and more rapid response from both the scientific community as well as actors that can change the game: policymakers, worldwide governments, as well as environmentalists who look at conservation as a priority.
Image Source: vresp.com
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