Scientists, managers and fishing organisations in the South West of England will work together to create a network of underwater cameras to understand the habitat needs of fished species in the region’s coasts and estuaries.
FinVision, an exciting new project funded by the UK Government, will fill important knowledge gaps about the essential fish habitats utilised by species including European sea bass and grey mullet.
To do that, it is using a recently developed Juvenile Habitat Monitoring Camera (JHaM-Cam) capable of capturing both the abundance and size of the smallest fish during their early life stages. These cameras allow for continuous monitoring in a range of essential nursery habitats, capitalising on advancements in automated image processing (machine learning) and environmental monitoring.
This smart underwater camera system is being deployed in the Plymouth Sound Marine National Park and surrounding areas using
state-of-the-art scientific diving facilities at the University of Plymouth.
The project is also developing an interactive web portal through which recreational anglers can support the video analysis and contribute critical information about fish living in different habitat types. Anglers will also get the opportunity to access training to enable them to participate in fish research in the future.
The two-year project, which has been awarded £530,000 in funding, is one of 12 initiatives - three of which will be led by the University of Plymouth - designed to support sustainable fisheries management that have received funding as part of the fourth and final round of the Fisheries Industry Science Partnership (FISP) scheme, part of the Government’s UK Seafood Fund.
FinVision is being led by researchers at the University, building on the depth of its expertise in marine conservation and fish habitat research. Additionally, FinVision will leverage excellence in digital additive manufacturing at the Plymouth Science Park, as well as the EmbryoPhenomics group experience in deep larvae computer-vision and environmental sensing.
Through industry collaboration and public involvement, we will build the capacity to measure commercially important juvenile fish species during their most critical life stages, thus filling critical knowledge gaps and widening participation in fisheries research.
FinVision aims to develop and apply a novel camera system and citizen science framework to advance monitoring capabilities and collect data on habitat requirements of early juvenile fishes in inshore areas.
The data and approach developed will fill important knowledge gaps about the essential habitats required by populations of fished species.
This information will bring benefits to fisheries by supporting policy decisions and management actions that make fisheries more sustainable through broader consideration of the ecosystems on which exploited populations depend.
The project will also be a vehicle for the fishing sector, scientists and managers to work together to devise effective management, giving the industry a voice and stake in management processes.
Why is this project so important?
The need to protect habitats that sustain fisheries productivity creates a critical evidence priority for fisheries management. Coastal areas support over three quarters of commercial landings and key recreational sportfish in Europe but experience substantial human impacts such as climate change, pollution and habitat destruction.
Juvenile fish are a particularly important focus for habitat management since they supply recruits that fuel fisheries production and often occupy the shallowest, most impacted coastal areas. In many species, habitat requirements in the weeks and months after settlement are very poorly understood, since the youngest fish are missed by typical surveys methods.
Dr Benjamin Ciotti
Lecturer in Marine Biology
Dr Oliver Tills
Senior Research Fellow
Mr Ryan Hepburn
Research Assistant in Fish Ecology
Mr Anthony Wilson
Research Assistant in Environmental Science
Dr Keiron Fraser
Associate Professor (Education) in Marine Conservation
Mr Benjamin Larsen
Digital Applications Engineer