Scientists develop social networking site to help save sea life

By Cindy Cha - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - In this Earth and Sea Project report, we reveal a unique Web site, aimed at helping marine biologists save sea life.

Researchers believe, to appreciate the fiercest predators in the sea, is to know them. They came up with a social networking site, similiar to Facebook, only it's for sea creatures.

Threatened by habitat and human destruction, sea creatures need all the friends they can get.

Researchers say the most basic action we land-dwellers can take is to simply know ocean life.

Scientists created TOPP, or Tagging of Pacific Predators, which compiles data from more than 22 different species that swim the Pacific Ocean.

"Social networking and the internet have provided great means of getting information to the public and so just to make people aware that these animals exist and that in many cases they're in trouble," said George Shillinger a marine biologist.

The site includes personal pages with names, statistics and even blogs.

The most compelling feature is a satellite display that lets visitors pinpoint the animals' locations.

For example, a great white shark, named Omoo, is currently swimming near Honolulu.

It had gone more than 122 miles since first being tagged.

Researchers say, once people know more about these animals, they can learn to appreciate them.

"Hopefully people will take it upon themselves to do what they can in their way to let more people know and ultimately to turn that interest into activism," said Shillinger.

And to hopefully translate it into conservation, in the years to come.

As of 2007, researchers have tagged more than 2,000 sea animals, including Elephant Seals, Leatherback Turtles and Shearwaters.