Love them or hate them, sharks are some of the most ferocious, intelligent predators to ever live in our waters and the modern day ocean ecosystem wouldn’t be the same without them.
For instance Mike Heithaus, shark researcher over at the Florida International University, gave a statement sharing that they play a key role in keeping the population of turtles and sea cows from getting out of control and devouring the entire shrimp population.
But sharks, like many other exotic animals, are being brutally hunted for their meat and thins. Heithaus estimates that roughly 100 million of them are suffering this fate every single year.
It is because of this that researchers from across the planed have teamed up to count and document how many sharks there are left in the world. They’ve dubbed the ambitious project “Global FinPrint” and expect it to last for about three (3) years. To collect their data, the researchers will place cameras at 10 – 100 meters underwater in 400 different reef locations.
Global FinPrint is set to start next month (August) and is financially backed by Vulcan Inc, the comoany of Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. He has contributed with four million dollars ($4 million) on this particular project, but he’s also contributed to various other studies looking at ocean life, space flight and the human brain in the past.
Dune Ives, Vulcan Inc’s senior director of philanthropy, gave a statement revealing that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently published a report which showed that the scientific community does not currently have the data they need in order to accurately assess what the current population status is for nearly half of our shark and ray species. This survey hopes to solve the problem.
The collaborating researchers are first and foremost interested in counting the sharks living in the tropical western Atlantic Ocean, the Indo-Pacific Ocean, and the area around the southern and eastern Africa and Indian Ocean islands. These areas haven’t really been explored in the past and researchers don’t much about the status of the sharks than can be found here.
While the researchers and the investors realize that an exact number is impossible to acquire, they stress that it is important for experts to at least have a relative idea of the number of sharks that various areas host. Knowing which places have a healthy shark population could help improve efforts to protect sharks that live in areas with a dangerously low population.
Global FinPrint is led by Stony Brook University’s (New York) Demian Chapman, who says that the project will help researchers get a better sense of what happens to fragile marine ecosystems when sharks disappear from an area, knowing that they provide food security for people living there.
Once the project starts, the data will be available to the general public on an open-access platform that will be constantly updated with information relating to species density, species diversity and habitats.
Image Source: livescience.com