Global Finprint

Global FinPrint is attempting to fill a critical information gap about the remaining number of sharks and stingrays in and around the world’s global reefs. Global FinPrint started in 2015 as a multi-institutional project to essentially take a global survey of the world’s coral reefs and the abundance of key species like sharks and stingrays using underwater video surveys. On yearly intervals, teams totalling 120 researchers branch out into the western Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and the Western Pacific, setting up approximately 40 baited remote underwater video survey equipment stations throughout the reef that record the surrounding environment for 60 minutes continuously. So far, 400 reefs around the world have been recorded, with over 200,000 hours of video collected and analyzed so far. The data is added and available on an open-access database, and so far, it tells a grim story about the state of the world’s shark and stingray population. 20% of reefs surveyed had no sharks whatsoever— not even reef sharks, who depend on coral reefs as a main source of subsistence. The researchers correlate this decline in sharks to rapid overfishing worldwide, with over 100 million sharks being killed as bycatch or intentional fishing per year. However, they also found that in coral reefs in or adjacent to marine protected areas, sharks were present and fairly abundant, and researchers see their presence as an encouraging sign that marine protected areas could be an effective tool to save a quarter of all shark species threatened with extinction. Their findings and database will hopefully serve as an important foundation for effective and swift ocean protection policies. However, one must also consider if sharing information on where sharks clusters are located might actually harm them by showing fishermen with the intent to fin (cut off shark fins for commercial sale) or otherwise harm the sharks where they are. Open information has a lot of positive potentials, but protection still should be a priority.


Biodiversity, Data, Ecological Monitoring, Monitoring, Regulation, Visual Technologies