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An autonomous ‘SharkCam’ spied on basking sharks in the UK to reveal their secret shy lives

Business Insider SA
 Aug 10, 2019, 08:55 AM

  • An autonomous ‘SharkCam’ has been used in the UK for the first time to observe the behaviour of basking sharks.
  • It reveals the secret lives of the world’s second largest fish, of which little is known about.
  • The stunning images captured by the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) will reinforce the case for creating the world’s first protected area for basking sharks in this part of the sea.
  • For more stories, go to www.businessinsider.co.za.

An autonomous ‘SharkCam’ has been used in the UK for the first time to observe the behaviour of shy basking sharks in the Inner Hebrides, an archipelago off the west coast of mainland Scotland. 

The ground-breaking technology reveals the secret lives of the world’s second largest fish - a species that little is known about, despite being prevalent in the waters off the west coast of Scotland, said the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in a newsletter.   

Scientists hope the stunning images captured by the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) will reinforce the case for creating the world’s first protected area for basking sharks in this part of the sea.

The AUV, called the REMUS SharkCam, ‘spied’ on the basking sharks from a distance collecting oceanographic data and wide angle high-definition video of their behaviour. The AUV is owned and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Initial footage showed the sharks moving through a water column, potentially searching for food, feeding near the surface and swimming close to the seabed.

It is hoped that further analysis of the many hours of video footage from the AUV, as well as visuals from towed camera tags attached to the sharks and the deployment of advanced sonar imaging, will uncover more about the underwater behaviour, social interactions, group behaviour and courtship of the species.

Fieldwork for the project took place in July in the proposed Sea of the Hebrides Marine Protected Area (MPA) – one of four possible MPAs currently under consultation by the Scottish Government.

The area is one of only a few world-wide where large numbers of basking sharks are found feeding in the surface waters each year.

 “This year’s collaboration has allowed us to use a combination of camera technologies and given us a glimpse of basking sharks’ underwater behaviour – a real first and very exciting. The footage has already made us reassess their behaviour, with the sharks appearing to spend much more time swimming just above the seabed than we previously thought,” said Dr Suzanne Henderson, Marine Policy and Advice Officer at SNH, who has worked on the basking shark tagging and research project run by SNH and the University of Exeter since 2012.

The project is funded by WWF/Sky Ocean Rescue,), SNH, WHOI and the University of Exeter.

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