Global FinPrint is a Paul G. Allen initiative that brings together an international research team and collaborators around the world to fill a critical information gap about the diminishing numbers of shark and rays. The project launches in summer 2015, with a multi-institutional team conducting surveys of sharks, rays and other types of marine life on coral reefs using baited remote underwater video (BRUV) throughout global biodiversity hotspots. The initiative aims to quantify the major human pressures and environmental factors influencing shark and ray populations and to investigate these animals’ potentially critical role in coral reef ecosystems from ecological and economic standpoints, to ultimately inform and drive regional and global shark conservation.Recent estimates suggest that around 100 million sharks are taken from the oceans every year for their fins and/or meat. For many species, catch rates have been so high that populations have declined severely. Habitat loss, particularly in continental and insular shelves of tropical and subtropical regions, has also impacted elasmobranch species the world over. Because of a lack of consistent surveys, it is difficult to determine what pristine densities and diversities “should” be to set restoration targets.
This initiative will allow the team to compare reefs with different characteristics to see what factors (such as coral cover, fish population density, fishing pressure or water temperature) determine the number, types and sizes of sharks seen on a reef and identify which reefs have the highest and lowest encounter rates with sharks. With this information, we will be able to prioritize areas for shark conservation to protect what is left or rebuild populations that are in trouble. The data – and the scientific adventure – will be made accessible to students, the general public, governments and other scientists through an open-access database, maximizing Global FinPrint’s impact on marine education and conservation.
Despite the longstanding fascination with these predators, only recently have we begun to realize just how important they are to keeping the oceans healthy and just how much trouble they face around the world. Conservation efforts on a global scale are needed now more than ever.
*Taken from the Global FinPrint website “About” page.
To visit the Global FinPrint website please click here.