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He travels around the world via the Octopus, partying and recovering wrecked warships, but Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen will support a new initiative for sharks, too.

Today, Allen and Vulcan announced their participation in Global FinPrint, a three-year study of sharks and rays in coral reef systems around the world. Led by Dr. Demian Chapman of Stony Brook University, Long Island, N.Y., the team will place “baited remote underwater video (BRUVs)” in more than 400 locations to observe and count sharks (see the video above) and other marine life. They’ll cover coral reef systems in the Indo-Pacific, tropical western Atlantic, southern and eastern Africa and Indian Ocean islands.

See the map of locations below:

Photo via Global FinPrint/Map of bait locations
Photo via Global FinPrint/Map of bait locations

According to FinPrint, one quarter of reef sharks and ray populations are facing extinction, and the rest we barely know enough about to determine their status.

The researchers hope that their findings will be consolidated to create one dataset so they can produce the “first standardized survey of shark, ray and skates in coral reef environments.”

Paul Allen
Paul Allen

Vulcan will provide the open-access database platform so researchers can share and use info to better understand and hopefully protect shark habitats. They’re planning to have the data available by summer 2018.

Why is this important? Sharks are a crucial part of the ocean’s food chain and reef health, and as we’re learning, when you remove one important organism from the ecosystem it can wreak havoc with the balance.

“Global FinPrint will help us better understand one of the ocean’s great mysteries: What is happening with fragile marine ecosystems when sharks are removed?” said Chapman in the statement. “Are coral reefs healthier or faster to recover from disturbances like coral bleaching or hurricanes because they have sharks?  These are hugely important questions. Many countries rely on healthy coral reefs for food security, tourism and coastal protection.”

Interested in learning more about sharks? You’re in luck. It’s “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel.

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