FinPrint is the first-ever global survey to inform shark and ray conservation
About one quarter of the world’s sharks, rays and skates are threatened with extinction. The lack of comprehensive and up-to-date data on species abundance and distribution hinders efforts to protect and replenish these important and dynamic marine animals.
Demian Chapman, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and a multi-institutional team have kicked off the Global FinPrint initiative, the first-ever global survey to inform shark and ray conservation. The largest of its kind, FinPrint is a three-year survey of sharks and rays in coral reef ecosystems designed to provide fundamental data essential to building effective conservation programs. FinPrint is funded by Vulcan Inc. which was founded by Paul G. Allen.
“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. “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.”
The survey portion of the Global FinPrint initiative will use baited remote underwater video (BRUVs) to survey sharks, rays and other marine life in coral reef ecosystems in more than 400 locations across three key geographic regions where data gaps exist: Indo-Pacific, tropical western Atlantic, and southern and eastern Africa and Indian Ocean islands. The new data will be consolidated with thousands of hours of existing BRUV data to form a single dataset for analysis to produce the first global standardized survey of shark, ray and skates in coral reef environments.
Survey data will be made available through an open-access database platform created by Vulcan Inc’s technology development team and will include information on species density, habitats and diversity trends. Researchers, policy makers, governments and others will be able use this database to help inform conservation priorities, such as identifying and protecting areas with large or important shark populations, and to better understand the ecological importance of sharks as apex predators.
Survey results will be made available in summer 2018.
For more information on the initiative, visit the Global FinPrint website at globalfinprint.org.