Oceans Initiative

Synchronicity Earth’s support Oceans Initiative helped develop a “small-boat survey toolkit” – a cost-effective and scalable tool to rapidly estimate marine mammal abundance, helping to reduce the threat from fisheries bycatch.

Oceans Initiative was established in 2007 by Rob Williams and Erin Ashe, two marine biologists based in British Columbia, Canada. They work to protect marine mammals and other endangered wildlife by translating science to effective policy and management.

Bycatch – the accidental death or injury of animals due to fishing – is estimated to kill 650,000 dolphins, porpoises and other marine mammals each year, affecting at least three in four species. Despite their popularity, marine mammals remain understudied across much of the world, hindering efforts to identify and conserve the most threatened populations. Without knowing how many animals there are are in a given area, it is impossible to judge the effect of by-catch, or other human activities, on a population which is why the animal counting toolkit is so useful.

Rapidly and cost-effectively, the toolkit is able to collect abundance data for marine mammals, which complements existing bycatch interventions across the tropics. Now designed, and field tested in Vancouver and Indonesia, Oceans Intiative have  launched the toolkit through an open-access paper detailing the methodology. They will follow this with YouTube videos to help with free training, and free software, both needed for data collection. This product will work to improve capacity and knowledge and will allow much more effective regulation of by-catch in developing countries. Read more about the animal counting toolkit here.

At A Glance