We're frequently asked at the Aquarium, "How many fish are there in the ocean?"
That's pretty easy to answer if you're talking about who lives in one of our exhibits, but if you're asking about a fish you'd find on one of Seafood Watch pocket guides, then it's not so simple.
And if you don't know how many fish there are in the sea (and equally important, how many there should be in a well-functioning ecosystem), then how can you properly manage fisheries in a sustainable way?
That's one of the reasons for the Census of Marine Life. An extremly ambitious 10-year project, its aim was to -- quite literally -- account for every fish in the sea. The project also wanted to set the census in context of what used to be in the ocean, as well as project ahead to what will be there in the future.
At the beginning of August, the Census released a number of papers summarizing findings to date. (It als put together a music video, which you can watch below.)
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's colloboration with Stanford University and the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program contributed to the findings. Tagging and tracking apex predators like great white sharks and bluefin tuna is helping scientists understand how animals use the ocean, but also identifies whether populations are mixing with animals found in different ocean basins, or are otherwise distinct or unique in some way.
There's so much more to learn about our ocean planet, and despite all of this great effort, we're still only scratching the surface.