A network of underwater camera rigs is being rolled out across UK Overseas Territories to help protect wildlife under the waves.

The network, which the Government said was the first of its kind and the world’s largest ocean monitoring system to protect wildlife, is part of the UK’s Blue Belt programme of marine protected areas around the globe.

The camera systems, known as baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) will be deployed in the Caribbean, South Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans, with project partner Blue Abacus, which is based in Australia.

Researcher Naima Andrea Lòpez with mid-water BRUVS (Blue Abacus/PA)
Researcher Naima Andrea Lòpez with mid-water BRUVS (Blue Abacus/PA)

They will be used to monitor wildlife in 10 Overseas Territories: Pitcairn, Ascension, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat and within the British Antarctic Territory.

The cameras will film and analyse data on species including white marlin, silky sharks, black triggerfish, loggerhead turtles, Gould’s squid and sea snakes.

It is hoped the £2 million UK-funded network, being deployed as the health of the oceans is in decline, will help scientists improve their understanding of the marine environment and how to restore it.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The marine wildlife living along the coastlines of our Overseas Territories is some of the most spectacular in the world and we must do more to protect it.

“Cutting-edge technology, such as these cameras, will be vital in our crusade against climate change. Our marine experts are world leaders in protecting our ocean and the myriad of species that live within it.”

Environment minister Lord Goldsmith said:  “Understanding and protecting marine life is essential to maintaining our world’s biological diversity.

“The lack of information on the variety and abundance of different species in large parts of the ocean makes it difficult for countries to protect them effectively.

“These UK-funded underwater video cameras will provide a wealth of information on the biodiversity in the seas around the Overseas Territories, including on globally threatened species of shark and migratory fish, like the bluefin tuna.”

Co-founder of Blue Abacus and professor at the University of Western Australia, Jessica Meeuwig, said:  “The world’s tunas, sharks and large reef fish continue to decline in numbers and this trend must be reversed.

“This programme will give decision makers the evidence they need to act decisively in support of their blue economies.”

The Blue Belt programme has brought in marine protection measures across four million square kilometres (1.5 million square miles) of oceans around the UK Overseas Territories, and funding to help manage the seas.