The use and abuse of photographic identification in sharks and rays

Authors

  • A. D. Marshall,

    Corresponding author
    1. Manta Ray & Whale Shark Research Centre, Marine Megafauna Association, Tofo Beach, Inhambane, Mozambique
    2. ECOCEAN USA, Tofo Beach, Inhambane, Mozambique
      Tel.: +258 847301190; email: andrea@marinemegafauna.org
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  • S. J. Pierce

    1. Manta Ray & Whale Shark Research Centre, Marine Megafauna Association, Tofo Beach, Inhambane, Mozambique
    2. ECOCEAN USA, Tofo Beach, Inhambane, Mozambique
    Search for more papers by this author

Tel.: +258 847301190; email: andrea@marinemegafauna.org

Abstract

The use of photography to discriminate between individuals in a population using natural markings or aberrations is increasingly being utilized to support field research on elasmobranchs. This non-intrusive method has facilitated investigation of a wide variety of subjects including population composition, abundance estimates, residency and movement, demography and social behaviours. Here the first detailed review of photo-identification as a research technique for sharks and rays is provided, and its assumptions, current applications and potential highlighted. The limitations and practical considerations of photographic studies are also investigated with recommendations on initial survey design and ongoing data collection using current technology. Future directions are also explored with an emphasis on a move towards standardized approaches and automated recognition programmes to facilitate global collaborative work.

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