New technology delivers unique images
An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) called REMUS SharkCam was first used in the UK to observe the behaviour of giant sharks in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland.
A breakthrough technology developed and built at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is designed to reveal the secret life of the second largest species of fish in the world - a species of which little is known.
The research team, which includes colleagues from the University of Exeter, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Sky Ocean Rescue, the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), hopes the breathtaking images taken by the AUV will provide the case for the Creation of the world's first protected area for basking sharks in this part of the sea.
The team tracked previously marked sharks with the SharkCam. The AUV collects wide-angle and high-resolution videos of their behaviour from afar as well as oceanographic data such as sea temperature, salinity, biological productivity and depth. First shots of the innovative SharkCam show how the sharks move through the water column and may be looking for food. They feed near the surface and swim close to the seabed.
It is to be hoped that further analysis of the many hours of video footage and images from cameras attached to the sharks will reveal even more about underwater behaviour, social interactions, group behaviour and the courtship of the species. "Each time we use REMUS SharkCam, we learn something new about the species we study," says WHOI researcher Amy Kukulya.
Fieldwork for the project took place in July 2019 in the Sea of the Hebrides Marine Protected Area (MPA), one of four possible protected areas currently being evaluated by the Scottish Government. MPAs are specifically designated for the protection of marine ecosystems, habitats and species. The area is one of only a few in the world where every year a large number of giant sharks are found in surface waters.
"Our seas and coasts are home to incredible wildlife," explains Dr. Jenny Oates from the WWF. "As our oceans are coming under increasing pressure, innovative technology like REMUS SharkCam can unveil our underwater world like never before and show why it needs protection." It's important that we protect our seas because all of Earth's life is protected by our lives Oceans. "