Coral reefs are in serious trouble in waters around the world. Ocean warming, pollution, overfishing, and invasive species are all harming these vibrant ecosystems, but assessing the animals’ health can be challenging. Not only are corals, well, underwater, but the traditional methods for performing check-ups leave something to be desired. When former marine biologist Sly Lee saw his fellow scientists relying on old-fashioned tape measurers to quantify damage to reefs, he looked to technology for a better solution.
White Shark Projects works with “eco tourists” and local enthusiasts to help change many of the needless misconceptions as well as the slaughter of over 100 million sharks per year.
Volunteers go through extensive and continuous training including basic seamanship, how to get in and out of the cage and how to remain secure and safe once inside.
"_We learned about data recording, shark tourism, working with clients, and vigilant shark spotting. Some of the training includes lectures on shark biology and habitat, conservation efforts, shark bite incidents, shark tourism and what to look for in recording data._"
Read more http://news.scubatravel.co.uk/like-sharks-volunteer-with-great-white-shark-project.html
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Photo credit: Maarten Billen
The Great Barracuda is amongst the top predators in their environment and use very highly developed smell and vision senses to locate their prey. When attacking, the barracuda will charge at fast speed (approximately 12 ms-1) and ram their target. They then unleash the power of their jaws which allows them to slice through their prey, even those larger than the barracuda itself. The jaw of the barracuda is formed in such a way that the upper and lower jaws form ‘rows’ of teeth. The top jaw has smaller serrated teeth on the outside and larger canines on the inside, and the teeth of the lower jaw fit between them when the mouth is shut. When the jaw closes this acts like scissors and slices through prey with ease.
The fish also has the infamy of containing high levels of ciguatoxin. Their toxic levels are traced back to dinoflagellates, which are a type of marine plankton that are at the bottom of the food web and are more commonly known for causing algal blooms. As those who prey upon them are also preyed upon, their concentration levels build up until they reach dangerously high levels amongst the apex predators, like the Great barracuda.
Ciguatera poisoning can be very harmful to humans when the flesh of reef fish, with high levels of the toxin, is eaten. It is thought to cause over 100 gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms.
A team of Brazilian scientists is calling for immediate fisheries management collaboration between the nation’s public and private sectors. The scientists say Brazil can transform this moment of political turmoil into positive action, and become a leader among developing countries facing widespread extinction of aquatic animals.
The Galapagos shark in the picture is an example of a keystone species thought to have been fished to regional extinction due to decades of nonexistent fisheries regulations. This species is one of many that could have greatly benefited from management plans that help reduce by-catch and prevent the overexploitation of fishing stocks.
“In Brazil – a country with some of the most unique aquatic environments on Earth – fisheries data don’t really exist,” says Luiz Rocha, PhD, Associate Curator of Ichthyology at the California Academy of Sciences. “There are no bag or size limits for any species of fish, and for the past few years, even the most basic fisheries statistics – such as the numbers and weights of fish being caught – are a blank space. Maintaining current red lists is crucial to making sure management plans start as soon as possible.”
photo credit: California Academy of Sciences
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