The UK is to become the first country to pioneer a major network of underwater camera rigs, funding the world’s largest ocean wildlife monitoring system to help protect life below water.
The network is being set up as part of the UK Government Blue Belt programme – which covers more than 4 million square kilometres of ocean.
The camera systems – known as BRUVS – will allow the UK’s Overseas Territories to observe and manage ocean wildlife in their diverse ecosystems. The non-intrusive method of capturing information on species will be used to document the incredible marine biodiversity in ten 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.
The rigs are being rolled out at a time when the health of the ocean is declining and will allow scientists to improve their understanding of the marine environment and restore our oceans.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
UK Minister for the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, said:
The 66 stereo-Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) will be used to film and analyse data on many species, including white marlin, sailfish, silky sharks, black triggerfish, loggerhead turtles, Gould’s squid, bottlenose wedgefish and sea snakes.
The 4-year programme – named the Global Ocean Wildlife Analysis Network – is expected to cost £2 million and will provide information on the ocean wildlife found in the vast maritime areas of the Overseas Territories, in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. It will also be used at the British Antarctic Survey Station, Rothera, in the Southern Ocean.
Project partner Blue Abacus, based in Perth, Western Australia, has pioneered the development of cutting-edge carbon fibre BRUVS.
Co-founder of Blue Abacus and Professor at the University of Western Australia, Jessica Meeuwig said:
Blue Abacus will work with the 10 participating Territories to provide a benchmark of scientific understanding of the marine species and habitats within their maritime area, allowing the Territories to take more informed decisions about protecting and managing these diverse ecosystems.
Timothy Austin, Deputy Director, Research and Assessment, Cayman Islands Department of Environment, said:
Diane Baum, Director of Conservation and Fisheries, Ascension Island Government, said:
This initiative builds on significant progress to improve our understanding of the marine environment of the Overseas Territories through the Blue Belt programme, and ensure these diverse ecosystems are protected and managed for future generations. Through the Blue Belt programme, the Overseas Territories have put in place large-scale marine protection measures covering over 4 million square kilometres.