SEATTLE, July 7, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Sharks are disappearing from our oceans in alarming numbers. 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.
With funding from Paul G. Allen, the Global FinPrint initiative is a three-year survey of sharks and rays in coral reef ecosystems. It is the largest of its kind and is designed to provide fundamental data essential to building effective conservation programs. Global FinPrint is one of several initiatives within Paul G. Allen's portfolio of ocean health programs. It kicks off this month with three years of underwater surveys and data aggregation conducted by a multi-institutional team led by Dr. Demian Chapman of Stony Brook University.
"A recent IUCN report indicated that we don't have the data we need to accurately assess the current population status for almost half of shark and ray species," said Dune Ives, senior director of philanthropy at Vulcan Inc. "Results from Global FinPrint will provide critical trend analyses and establish baselines in places that have never before been systematically assessed. This information will help inform more effective conservation efforts."
"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."
Five other leading shark conservation researchers will collaborate on the Global FinPrint initiative, including Dr. Mike Heithaus, Florida International University; Dr. Colin Simpfendorfer, James Cook University and IUCN Shark Specialist Group Co-Chair; and Drs. Michelle Heupel, Aaron MacNeil and Mark Meekan, Australian Institute of Marine Science.
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'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.
About Vulcan Inc.
Vulcan Inc. creates and advances a variety of world-class endeavors and high-impact initiatives that change and improve the way people live, learn, do business and experience the world. Founded in 1986 by investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, Vulcan oversees various business and charitable projects including real estate holdings, investments in dozens of companies, including the Seattle Seahawks NFL, Seattle Sounders FC Major League Soccer, and Portland Trail Blazers NBA franchises, First & Goal Inc., the Seattle Cinerama theatre, Experience Music Project, the Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Allen Institute for Cell Science and The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. For more information, visit www.vulcan.com.
About Stony Book University
Stony Brook University is one of America's most dynamic public universities, a center of academic excellence and an essential part of the region's economy. A member of the prestigious, invitation-only Association of American Universities, Stony Brook is one of the 62 leading research institutions in North America and the co-manager of Brookhaven National Laboratory.
About Florida International University
Florida International University is recognized as a Carnegie engaged university. It is a public research university with colleges and schools that offer more than 180 bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in fields such as engineering, international relations, architecture, law and medicine. FIU is Worlds Ahead in finding solutions to the most challenging problems of our time and emphasizes research as a major component of its mission. For more information about FIU, visit http://www.fiu.edu.
About Australian Institute of Marine Science
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is Australia's premiere tropical marine research agency that provides large-scale, long-term and world-class research that helps governments, industry and the wider community to make informed decisions about the management of Australia's marine estate.
About James Cook University
One of the world's leading institutions focusing on the tropics, James Cook University is dedicated to creating a brighter future for life in the tropics world-wide, through graduates and discoveries that make a difference. The University conducts nationally significant and internationally recognized research in areas such as marine sciences, biodiversity, and tropical ecology.
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SOURCE Paul G. Allen