A partnership with:

Global FinPrint Project


Principal Investigator: Daniel Fernando & Nishan Perera

Project Partner: Global FinPrint and The Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS).

Project Collaborator: The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), Sri Lanka.

Funded By: Global FinPrint.

Location: Colombo, Pigeon Island National Park, Nilaveli, and Passikudah.

Current Status: Ongoing since March 2017.

Additional Information: https://globalfinprint.org/, and http://www.vulcan.com.

Background

Nearly one quarter of the world’s sharks, rays and skates are threatened with extinction, with many of the remaining species either approaching this status or too poorly studied to be assessed. Overexploitation by fisheries to supply large markets for dried fins, gill plates, and meat are principally responsible for this situation, with the effects of overfishing sometimes coupled with habitat loss. The most severe impacts of human threats occur on the world’s continental and insular shelves, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. A lack of data has hindered current efforts to manage elasmobranch populations and mitigate negative human impacts. Furthermore, it is also difficult to set baselines for restoration or to determine the ecological impact of the worldwide depletion of elasmobranchs.

Global FinPrint is a Paul G. Allen initiative that has gathered an international research team to collect vital data on the depleted number of elasmobranchs in the world’s oceans. The project launched in summer 2015, conducting surveys of sharks, rays, and other types of marine life on coral reefs on a global scale using baited remote underwater video (BRUV), an efficient and non-invasive method. Using a single survey technique to obtain both time series and spatial data at sites around the world, Global FinPrint will be the first globally standard survey of elasmobranch diversity and abundance over the world’s continental and insular shelves, with a key focus on coral reef ecosystems. This large-scale effort will seek to fill the knowledge gaps in human impacts, habitat use and baseline abundance, aiding management and conservation efforts for elasmobranchs.

Blue Resources Trust undertook the Sri Lanka component of the Global FinPrint Project in collaboration with scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). Blue Resources Trust carried out the BRUV surveys on Sri Lanka’s east and west coasts with the assistance of Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), deploying BRUVs around Colombo, Pigeon Island National Park, Nilaveli and Pasikudah. The project pioneered the use of BRUVS in Sri Lanka and was the first comprehensive fishery-independent study of elasmobranchs in Sri Lanka. Data generated by the project can be used to aid the management of elasmobranch populations in Sri Lanka and provide a baseline for future research in the field in Sri Lanka.

 

Primary Objectives

Global FinPrint aims to develop a comprehensive global dataset on reef elasmobranch diversity, distribution and factors affecting these, in order to develop appropriate management plans at the national and international level. In Sri Lanka, the project sought to complete a standardized survey of the abundance and diversity of reef elasmobranchs under a global initiative, and to develop a predictive model to determine factors (e.g., fishing pressure, substrate, temperature, salinity, prey density, predation risk etc.) influencing reef elasmobranch density and diversity.

The data will be used to identify contemporary global hotspots of reef elasmobranch abundance and diversity, and highlight the differences between pristine and impacted sites for all habitat types. A combination of global and local datasets will be used to understand functional relationships among apex predatory sharks, mesopredators, herbivores, and benthic community structure to assess the global ecological importance of elasmobranchs. The results will produce open-access resources to ensure that data are available to the public, resource managers, and educators to promote maximum impact of data.

Pulling up a BRUV

The BRUVs ready for deployment

Preparing the bait bags for the BRUVs

A short clip of the footage obtained from Sri Lanka.