Benham Rise expedition goes high tech

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2016 10:00 PM

A group of marine scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the University of the Philippines, and ocean observation group Oceana Philippines sailed to Benham Rise on board the government research vessel MV DA-BFAR. Handout

MANILA - Marine scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the University of the Philippines, along with members of Oceana Philippines, have sailed to Benham Rise to explore its marine biodiversity.

The group will explore Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of the vast seamount, on board the government research vessel MV DA-BFAR.

Oceana is providing remotely operated vehicles and technical diver-videographers during the expedition to get more footage, allowing researchers a more extensive analysis of the marine life in Benham Bank.

This year’s expedition will also make use of the baited remote underwater video system (BRUVS) to measure fish populations.

BRUVS uses footage from two cameras attached to a frame with fish bait at the center. It also uses a special software to estimate fish sizes and the number of fish seen at any given time, avoiding the problem with double counting of fish that occurs in manual surveys.

The United Nations’ Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf recognized the extended continental shelf jutting from Benham Rise as the Philippines' newest territory in 2012.

Rhoda Bacordo, team leader and chief scientist for BFAR during the expedition, said several explorations conducted since 2006 have shown the significance of the area for 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.

Marianne Pan-Saniano, an Oceana Philippines marine scientist, also believes new discoveries in the expedition can help in crafting a conservation plan for Benham Rise.