MBARI’s Piscivore camera system gives us a glimpse into the secret lives of ocean predators and their dynamic surroundings. Tunas, sharks, seabirds, and marine mammals play an important role in ocean ecosystems, but these top predators are also challenging to study. They spend much of their time far out at sea, dispersed across the open ocean. Many are also fast swimmers that can easily evade a ship or robot.  

Piscivore (pronounced “pie-si-voar”) can be deployed on a variety of autonomous vehicles, including the innovative long-range autonomous underwater vehicle developed by MBARI engineers, making it possible to survey vast areas of the ocean efficiently and inexpensively. The system uses a flashy piece of metal to attract curious predators, allowing researchers to collect visual observations of these animals alongside important environmental data (e.g., salinity, temperature, chlorophyll, oxygen, pH). After recovering the system and downloading data from its two cameras, MBARI researchers use machine learning to quickly analyze the hours of video recorded by Piscivore to find encounters with marine predators.

Piscivore’s video observations help us better understand populations of ocean predators and their prey. The data collected by Piscivore and MBARI’s ocean observing platforms can help resource managers implement regulations to protect marine life and ecosystems from threats like overfishing and climate change.



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