Counting the sharks

'Chum cam' helps researchers track endangered sharks.
Written by Amy Kraft, Weekend Editor

Scientists who study tigers or leopards in the wild rely on camera traps to gather research. And now they are turning their lenses to the deep blue sea to track Caribbean reef sharks.

Scientists with the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University are using underwater video cameras to count sharks inside and outside of marine reserves on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

Two hundred baited cameras, nicknamed 'chum cams,' were deployed in the reef to help researchers compare the amount of sharks living inside the reserves to sharks in areas where fishing is allowed. The research helped scientists prove that marine protected areas are home to more sharks than areas where fishing is allowed.

"Although we know that relatively sedentary reef fish and lobsters benefit from marine reserves, this study now presents visual proof that large, active sharks are also dramatically more abundant inside these protected areas too," said Mark Bond, lead author of the study and doctoral student at Stony Brook University.

The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Shark populations around the world are threatened by overfishing. The study shows that marine reserves can help protect shark species that live on coral reefs.

"As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words," said Bond. "As Caribbean nations and other countries consider developing marine reserves, chum cams can virtually transport policy makers and the public beneath the waves and show them the benefits of these protected areas."

Counting Sharks with Cameras: 'Chum Cam' Underwater Video Survey Shows That Reef Sharks Thrive in Marine Reserves   [Newswise]

Photo via Institute for Ocean Conservation Science

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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