Using data to protect the Great White Shark

PRESS RELEASE, 18th Dec 2019, Irish Tech News

Oxford based Zegami, the data visualisation company helping businesses unlock their data potential, has been engaged by world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, to strengthen its project to monitor and protect the Great White Shark Population in the Northeastern Pacific.

The aquarium’s Conservation Research and Education programmes are world leading and their dedication to the research of white sharks is long established. Zegami will be helping them bring structure to their large collection of visual data, in this case, pictures of Great White Shark fins spotted off the coasts of California to Baja, Mexico.

The team from the Aquarium has been working for over 15 years to track individual White sharks in the area with a goal to both monitor and protect them.

So far, they have identified and researched 475 individual White Sharks, this has been done, both by a team of researchers from the aquarium, and with help from members of the public (often fishermen and divers) who submit photographs when they see the sharks in the wild.

As a result of this, the Aquarium currently has a catalogue of over 2,000 images of White Shark fins which has historically been challenging to navigate, which is why Monterey Bay approached Zegami.

Dr. Salvador Jorgensen, Senior Research Scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium said: “White Sharks are probably the best known apex marine predator on the planet, so it’s no surprise there’s a huge amount of interest around them and the amount of photos we’re sent is testament to that. We have some sharks on record who have been tracked over 25 years, and it is becoming increasingly challenging to manage our collection. Zegami technology offered a simpler way for us to navigate the collection, and quickly identify the individual shark in the images.  This is more important than ever at a time when the health of our oceans and the safety of our sharks are both under critical threat.”

Sharks are distinguished by their fins, with each shark’s dorsal fin having a series of notches and ridges as individual as a fingerprint making it possible in some cases to name the sharks. A shark named Tom Johnson is named after the naturalist who took the first photo of him in 1987, and Leno has a fin resembling the quiff of the famous US Late Night TV host Jay Leno.

Roger Noble, Founder and CTO, Zegami, said: ‘We’re delighted to be able to help Monterey Bay Aquarium and the team’s passion for ocean health and the preservation of White Sharks is hugely inspiring. We’ve been able to work across a huge collection of images to make a powerful tool for them which we hope will contribute to the conservation of these threatened animals.”

The Aquarium will be using the collection to determine if the population of Great White Sharks is stable, or has changed in the last 5-10 years.