UK launches ocean camera network to protect marine wildlife

The cameras will moniter sea creatures like loggerhead turtles. (Credit: Mark Conlin/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Image)

A world-first network of underwater camera rigs is being rolled out across UK Overseas Territories to help protect sealife.

The cameras, which the Government says will make up the world’s largest wildlife-protecting ocean monitoring system, will track fish and other sea creatures in the Caribbean, South Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans.

Known as ‘baited remote underwater video systems’ (BRUVS), the cameras will film and analyse data on species including white marlin, silky sharks, black triggerfish, loggerhead turtles, Gould’s squid and sea snakes.

The £2 million network is part of the UK’s Blue Belt programme of marine protected areas around the globe. It is being installed in collaboration with Australian sea-monitoring firm Blue Abacus.

The company measure the number and size of fish to gauge the health of different ocean ecosystems.

Declining ocean health

As climate change makes ocean temperatures and sea levels rise, it’s becoming harder for many sea creatures to thrive. But healthy fish populations are a crucial food source, as well as an important part of many country’s economies.

It’s hoped the new system will improve scientists’ understanding of the ocean environment and help them come up with new ways to protect it.

Co-founder of Blue Abacus and professor at the University of Western Australia, Jessica Meeuwig, said: ‘The world’s tunas, sharks and large reef fish continue to decline in numbers and this trend must be reversed.

‘This programme will give decision makers the evidence they need to act decisively in support of their blue economies.’

‘Cutting-edge technology’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘The marine wildlife living along the coastlines of our Overseas Territories is some of the most spectacular in the world and we must do more to protect it.

‘Cutting-edge technology, such as these cameras, will be vital in our crusade against climate change. Our marine experts are world leaders in protecting our ocean and the myriad of species that live within it.’

This photo from Blue Abacus shows researcher Naima Andrea Lopez with a midwater ‘BRUVS’ camera. (Credit: Blue Abacus/PA Wire)

Environment minister Lord Goldsmith said: ‘Understanding and protecting marine life is essential to maintaining our world’s biological diversity.

‘The lack of information on the variety and abundance of different species in large parts of the ocean makes it difficult for countries to protect them effectively.

‘These UK-funded underwater video cameras will provide a wealth of information on the biodiversity in the seas around the Overseas Territories, including on globally threatened species of shark and migratory fish, like the bluefin tuna.’

The UK and its overseas territories are responsible for for the fifth largest marine estate on the planet, according to London’s Natural History Museum.

The Blue Belt programme has introduced marine protection measures across four million square km (1.5 million square miles) of oceans around this estate.

The new cameras will count fish in 10 Overseas Territories: Pitcairn, Ascension, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat and within the British Antarctic Territory.

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