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Abstract:

We present a novel system of drifting pelagic baited stereo-video cameras that operate in
deep-water, topographically complex environments typically considered inaccessible for sampling. The
instruments are portable, semi-autonomous and inexpensive, allowing the recording of high-definition
video footage in near-real time and over broad stretches of ocean space. We illustrate their benefits and
potential as non-extractive monitoring tools for offshore marine reserves with a pilot study conducted
within the newly established Perth Canyon Commonwealth Marine Reserve, southwestern Australia (328 S,
1158 E). Using occupancy and maximum entropy models, we predict the distribution of midwater fishes
and sharks and show that their most suitable habitat encompasses a wider fraction of the canyon head than
is covered by park boundaries. Our proof-of-concept study demonstrates that drifting pelagic stereo-video
cameras can serve as appropriate field platforms for the construction of species distribution models with
implications for ocean zoning and conservation planning efforts.
 

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