Paul Allen Funds Shark Population Census, To Aid ‘Conservation’

Sharks are the kings of the oceans; being the top most predators they help control the natural balance underwater. Sharks control populations of the turtles and sea cows by eating them, if not for the sharks there would be overwhelming amounts of them on the sea grass, which is an important habitat for smaller fish and shrimp that contribute towards fisheries, stated marine biologist Mike Heithaus, who is a leading shark researcher from the Florida International University.

But even though sharks are the masters in the food chain they are still in trouble in some parts of the world. Sadly almost 100 million sharks are captured from the oceans every year due to the demand for their fins and meat.

Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen who is also the founder of Vulcan Incorporation, which funds a series of scientific initiatives on ocean health, space flight, and understanding the human brain. Vulcan Inc. has given four million dollars in investment to the Global FinPrint project.

In a recent survey conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature it was determined that researchers do not have enough data to accurately assess the current population of the sharks and ray species stated Dunes Ives, senior director of philanthropy at Vulcan Inc.

“This information will help inform more effective conservation efforts.”

There is some historical data is available on shark populations, including the data researchers receive from underwater camera.

With this new effort the amount of cameras placed undersea worldwide, particularly in areas where little is known about shark populations such as the Indo-Pacific, tropical western Atlantic and southern and eastern Africa and Indian Ocean islands, stated Heithaus.

However this new study will not give an absolute number of how many sharks there are but it will give an idea of how many sharks are present in different locations, which places have more numbers and which locations show a reduction in the number of sharks.

Demian Chapman of Stony Brook University in New York is leading the international team of researchers, which include researchers from the James Cook University in Queensland, Australia and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

There will be open-access platform set up where the data from the survey will be made available. The data will include information on species density, habitats and diversity trends.

“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 Chapman.

Such concerns have to be met because many countries reply on healthy coral reefs for food security, tourism and coastal protection.

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