A Shark Fin Guide and Software
FAO Shark Factsheets
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) published a Shark Fin Guide. It covers 16 shark species that are globally distributed. The selected sharks are either of major importance owing to either their conservation status or because they are a main target for the international trade in the fins.
First of all, a fact sheet was conducted for each species Each includes identification instructions based on the shark fins. In addition, it shows a colour illustration of the whole shark, a distribution map and a photographic set of fins.
Furthermore, it contains the user manual of the software iSharkFin. iSharkFin is a software developed by FAO in collaboration with the University of Vigo. This application is an expert system that uses machine learning techniques to identify shark species from shark fin shapes. With the use of iSharkFin, 42 different sharks can be identified by their fins. Many of these species are the most frequently traded internationally. The scope is to include more shark species. But since some species are becoming quite rare, it will consequently take some time to collect complete data. The app was financially supported by the Japanese Government and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
How does this innovative recognition system work?
It is based on artificial intelligence techniques. In practice, the user uploads a picture, choose a few key points of the fin shape and other details. Within a few minutes, an algorithm compares the information with its database and identifies the shark species of interest. In addition to the software, FAO is also developing application. Hence, iSharkFin application can used on tablets and smartphones, thus enlarging their scope and use.
Why an application and identification guide on sharks?
Since 2013, already five shark species have been added to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora threatened with extinction (CITES). The wider public associates sharks with attacks on humans. As a result, its interest to protect sharks is compared to other species rather low. But sharks play a critical role in keeping our oceans healthy and in balance. Thus because shark species are at the top of the marine food web.
Some studies are already indicating that the elimination of sharks can cause disastrous effects. These studies include the collapse of fisheries and the death of coral reefs on a regional scale. As a result, worldwide it is difficult to collect data on sharks and the data in respect to the number of killed sharks vary widely. Most of all, with the use of this application one can help to collect data on sharks globally. Can you identify my by my fin by using the FAO Shark Fin Guide?