BFAR gets tech to scan marine life in Benham Rise

A NON-GOVERNMENTAL organization (NGO) focused on ocean conservation said on Tuesday it provided advanced technologies and tools to help the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) explore the marine life existing in Benham Rise.

Oceana Philippines, together with marine scientists from the BFAR and the University of the Philippines, has set on an exploration mission to discover the biodiversity present in the country’s newest territory.

The team on Monday sailed for Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of the vast seamount, onboard the government research vessel MV DA-BFAR.

“Oceana is providing remotely operated vehicles and technical diver-videographers during the expedition to get more footage and allow researchers to analyze the marine life in Benham Bank more extensively,” the NGO said.

A baited remote underwater video system (BRUVS) will also be used during the expedition to measure fish populations. The system uses footage from two cameras attached to a frame with a fish-bait at the center, as well as an especially licensed software to estimate fish sizes and analyze the maximum number of fish seen at any one time.

The method, Oceana said, avoids the problem of double counting fish, which occurs in manual transect surveys.

Benham Rise is a 13-million hectare undersea region in the east of Luzon. It was recognized by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf as the country’s newest territory in 2012.

Rhoda Bacordo, team leader and chief scientist for BFAR during the expedition, said several fisheries and oceanographic explorations conducted since 2006 revealed Benham Rise’s potential to contribute to the country’s food security.

“This could serve as new alternative fishing grounds for Filipino fishermen, since the area is known as the migration path of fish, including tuna,” she said.

Oceana Philippines marine scientist Marianne Pan-Saniano said Benham Bank is known for its deep-sea reefs that harbor a wide variety of marine life.

“Oceana is hopeful that whatever new discoveries will be made in this expedition can serve as the basis for crafting a management and conservation plan for this new territory,” she said.


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