Overexploitation of living resources is one of humanity’s most pervasive global impacts. The removal of top predators by humans has led to disruption of ecosystem services around the globe. Removal of these animals from marine ecosystems re-shapes the entire structure of ocean food webs, affecting organisms at all trophic levels.
One remarkable exception appears to be the California Current, the large marine ecosystem off North America’s western shores. Here, where upwelling brings nutrient-rich currents, and long-term oceanic cycles have produced highly variable conditions, we have a community with a high level of natural resilience, able to withstand ecosystem perturbations such as climate variation.
This rich ecosystem teems with sharks, seals, tunas, whales, albatross and sea turtles. The Tagging of Pacific Predators program (TOPP), part of the global Census of Marine Life, invested $25 million in electronic tagging, enabling marine scientists from 5 nations to map the ocean hotspots within this valuable habitat.
The Blue Serengeti Initiative will capitalize on the new knowledge and preserve this remarkable marine environment by focusing on the hot spots identified through TOPP. We will use novel technologies to monitor the region and connect the public with marine predators, to inspire protection of this vast oceanic realm through creation of a large marine ecosystem-scale World Heritage Site or oceanscape.
While an ocean may look homogeneous from above, underneath the blue surface of the California Current teems a complex ecosystem, linked by predators such as sharks, tunas, sea turtles, albatross, seals and whales, each relying on prey species such as sardines, anchovies and squid. The TOPP studies reveal that each animal group utilizes specific habitats; their travels connecting east and west, north and south, shallow and deep. Evidence from electronic tagging and genetics research indicates that individuals encountered off California’s waters are connected to populations off Australia and Japan. We have demonstrated that biologging science (the use of electronic tags) provides a powerful tool for observing and monitoring how animals use this Blue Serengeti. We are seeking funding now to develop and deploy a novel technological solution to establish long-term monitoring of California Current top predators such as sharks, tunas and turtles. By establishing Wifi Café technology submerged in the ocean we will provide knowledge of the comings and goings of key predator species - knowledge that may prevent the demise of these species in the California Current ecosystem and in some cases the greater Pacific basin. The Wifi Café will allow us to monitor regions that are as wild as the most remote African savannah., providing an animal’s-eye view of this vastly unexplored undersea world.