Marine Remote Imagery Platform

The Marine Remote Imagery Platform (Mar-RIP) offers scientists the ability to conduct ecological research on benthic biota across the continental shelf of South Africa, from the shallow subtidal to depths of 250m.

The platform allows for data collection on both demersal and benthic fish populations as well as sessile and mobile invertebrate species.

Fish assemblage

The primary method for fish assemblage assessments are underwater remote stereo-video systems (stereo-RUVs). The stereo-RUVs can be used with or without a bait attractant (stereo-BRUVs). The data output from the stereo-video samples include species composition, relative abundance and length of fish. In addition environmental data including water temperature, water clarity, habitat type and habitat complexity can be measured.

The systems can operate between 5 and 250m depth off research vessels fitted with a capstan winch and a derrick arm. The systems come with high powered blue LEDs lights for research at depths where light is limited. At present eight systems of available. These can be used together off large vessels or split into multiple sets for use off medium sized vessel. All software and calibration equipment are provided within the platform. In addition to the stereo-camera systems there are five mono-camera systems that can be used for assessments of species composition and relative abundance.

Invertebrate assemblages

To complement the fish data from stereo-B/RUVs, the platform includes two jump cameras that can be used to collect habitat information over similar depth ranges. At present the Jump Cameras are designed to collect photo quadrats (⅓ m2), however stereo-imagery add-on systems will soon be available to measure the erect growth forms to compliment the photo-quadrats. This will enable the jump cameras to provide data on species composition, and frequency occurrence together with various measurements of size and height.

The jump cameras come with white LED light systems to work in low light and dark environments and additional probes to record water depth and water temperature.


All equipment is housed at the SAIAB offices in Grahamstown, however projects at various locations around the coastline of South Africa can be facilitated so long as suitable vessels are available. Depending on field sampling requirement up to three independent projects can be supported at one time, with field equipment being shipped between the different projects as and when required.

Presently the platform supports 15 students (1 Post-doc, 5 PhD, 6 MSc, 3 BScH) conducting research between Cape Town and Pondoland in South Africa, and two international projects in the Seychelles and on Walter's Shoal. Some of the projects initiated to date include:

  • The effect of spatial management and depth on the structure of reef fish assemblages measured with stereo baited remote underwater video systems (stereo-BRUVs). Agulhas Ecoregion, South Africa
  • Characteristics and distribution patterns of benthic biotopes and fish assemblages at Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles
  • What colour of artificial light is best for sampling fish assemblages on subphotic reefs, and can lights be used in standardized sampling throughout the depth distribution of a species?
  • Quantitative assessment of the ichthyofauna associated with different habitats and depth zones on Walter’s Shoal, a shallow seamount in the Western Indian Ocean
  • Benthic community structure of the Walter’s Shoal seamount in relation to depth, light and location
  • The ichthyofauna of False Bay: community composition, vulnerability indices and management projections
  • Role of the Amathole Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in conserving adult populations of vulnerable and threatened reef fish species. Have the parks been appropriately designed?
  • The influence of bait on the sensitivity of abundance and size data to measure change in reef fish community structure recorded from baited remote underwater stereo-video systems
  • The effectiveness of the De Hoop Marine Protected Area in the conservation of reef fish and as a tool for fisheries management.
  • Requirements for monitoring of subtidal benthic reef invertebrates in South Africa's Agulhas Ecoregion
  • The effectiveness and influence of an electric shark repellent device on the behaviour of reef fishes


Bernard ATF, Götz A, Parker D, Heyns ER, Halse SJ, Riddin NA, Smith MKS, Paterson AW, Winker H, Fullwood L, Langlois TJ, Harvey ES. 2014. New possibilities for research on reef fish across the continental shelf of South Africa. South African Journal of Science. 110 (9/10): 5pp.

For more info contact

Dr. Anthony Barnard -
Dr. Albrecht Gotz -