Photo Identification

Photo Identification is a powerful non-invasive field technique for studying sharks and rays in their natural environment. Divers, snorkeler and fisherman around the world are called to submit images of their shark sightings, which will help researchers to better understand these vulnerable and highly migratory species. Individual animals can be distinguished and recognized by either natural markings (pigmentation) or acquired markings (scars, injuries). Photo-ID projects can provide valuable information on migration routes, population structure and feeding behaviour, which can be used in planning shark conservation and management measures.

A number of different Photo-ID projects are summarized below. If you would like to have other Photo ID Libraries featured here as well please contact us at sharks@cms.int and we are happy to add further projects.

 

Project Name

ECOACEN Whale Shark Photo-ID Library

Monitored Species 

Whale Sharks

Organisation

ECOCEAN

Project Description

The ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-Identification Library is a visual database of whale shark encounters and of individually catalogued whale sharks. The Library uses photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark and any scars to distinguish between individuals for long-term, mark-recapture analysis. The library is maintained and used by marine biologists to collect and analyse whale shark encounter data. Resulting population models can be used by local, regional, and international conservation and management authorities to understand the pressures on this species and to take specific action to protect them.

 

Project Name

Basking Shark Project

Monitored Species 

Basking Sharks

Organisation

SharkTrust

Project Description

Very little is known about the life of the Basking Shark, partly because it spends most of its life deep underwater. However, during spring and summer they may be seen feeding on plankton at the sea surface which gives researchers and members of the public an opportunity to take photographs, many of which display significant and recognisable identification markings. This allows researchers to map individual migration routes and attempt to estimate population size, which is especially important for a vulnerable and highly migratory species like the Basking Shark. A ‘community’ database has been created to efficiently store photo-ID images from associated projects, including; the Shark Trust, Marine Conservation International, Irish Basking Shark Study Group and Manx Basking Shark Watch. This project aims to promote conservation research by sharing information.

 

Project Name

ECOACEN Manta Matcher

Monitored Species 

Manta Rays

Organisation

Marine Megafauna Foundation, ECOCEAN

Project Description

Manta rays are widely distributed, migratory, and have unique spot patterning on their ventral surface that can be used to permanently identify individuals. The Manta Matcher database was specifically designed to manage Manta Ray sightings and identifications across their distribution. It will enable researchers to upload and organize individually identified manta rays in their populations. This system is also intended to promote collaborations by way of cross-referencing databases to check for both regional and long distance movement. It is expected that researchers will ultimately be able to use sightings data to determine the abundance, trends, movements, and population structure of manta ray populations at individual aggregation sites across the globe.