The oceans cover more than 70% of our planet’s surface, amounting to more than 321 million cubic miles of water. At the same time, scientists estimate that 91% of species within the oceans have not been classified and more than 80% of these waters are not mapped. A new initiative out of the United Kingdom is addressing some of this information shortfall in a bid to ensure oceans stay healthy.
A series of underwater camera rigs is being installed throughout British Overseas Territories, including areas across the Caribbean, South Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Southern Oceans. The first network of its kind will bolster the UK Blue Belt program, which helps these areas protect and sustainably manage marine environments spanning more than four million square kilometers.
Government officials say this surveillance is important because the health of the oceans has been declining.
UK Minister for the Environment, Zac Goldsmith, says, “Understanding and protecting marine life is essential to maintaining our world’s biological diversity. The lack of information on the variety and abundance of different species in large parts of the ocean makes it difficult for countries to protect them effectively.
“The UK is committed to tackling the biggest global challenges, including climate change and loss of biodiversity.”
Goldsmith added that the monitoring system will allow for better tracking of threatened species.
The Global Ocean Wildlife Analysis Network, as it’s called, will use 66 stereo-Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems, or BRUVS. The BRUVS system is set up on carbon fiber frames ten meters underwater in deep ocean areas. It will film and help capture data about species like white marlin, silky sharks, loggerhead turtles, Gould’s squid, and sea snakes. The coverage area will even extend to the British Antarctic Survey Station, Rothera, in the Southern Ocean. The system allows scientists to collect up to 100 samples over seven to ten days in each area so they can understand what that ecosystem looks like at a given moment.
Australia-based Blue Abacus is lending its services to the initiative. They first adopted the video system for ocean life monitoring.
Blue Abacus co-founder and University of Western Australia professor Jessica Meeuwig, says, “The world’s tunas, sharks and large reef fish continue to decline in numbers and this trend must be reversed. This program will give decision makers the evidence they need to act decisively in support of their blue economies.”
Article continues below
Our Featured Programs
See how we’re making a difference for People, Pets, and the Planet and how you can get involved!
Blue Abacus will help the ten participating territories better understand their ocean areas and species so they can make well-informed decisions on marine management. By looking at samples taken at different times, officials will be able to see if their conservation efforts are paying off or if different steps need to be taken.
Among the territories taking part are the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, and St. Helena.
Timothy Austin, Deputy Director of Research and Assessment at the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, says, “The Cayman Islands Department of Environment is very excited at the opportunity to participate in the network that will bring the BRUV network into the Caribbean region for the first time. The opportunity to take this technology further offshore will greatly enhance the Cayman Islands’ ability to implement meaningful and effective conservation regimes for this data limited, poorly understood, but crucially important ecosystem.”
The effort is part of the global 30 by 30 initiative, which aims to conserve at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Scientists say that this level of conservation will help reverse adverse impacts, preserve fish populations, increase resilience to climate change, and sustain long-term ocean health.Whizzco