The big BRUV

  • Other species
  • Rays & Skates
  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  • Archived
Project type
  • Research

Curious about life at the bottom of False Bay? Lauren’s underwater video cameras show us which sharks and fish have made it their home. This simple system can be replicated to give us a glimpse of underwater worlds across South Africa.

The big BRUV

Lauren de Vos

Project leader
About the project leader

For a girl born inland and raised on red African soil, it’s a bit of a journey down to the sea. However, every day sees me fall a little more in love with our planet’s wildest spaces – so it was almost inevitable that I would end up at that last great blue wilderness: the ocean. My research career to this point has been nothing if not eclectic – a good indication of my love of learning and my addiction to the outdoors!

When I moved to the coast for university, my first bumbling attempts...

PROJECT LOCATION : False Bay, South Africa
Related Blogs
By Lauren de Vos, 29th March 2014
The Life Aquatic
A previous post of mine introduced you all to SciFest Africa 2014 – and the 68 000 (or so) children who flooded Grahamstown during that period! A major component of our False Bay BRUVs work has been about using videos and novel ways to “bring…
By Lauren de Vos, 24th March 2014
Discovering our Seas
“So, what are you going to be when you grow up?” Stepping carefully out from the darkened interior of our DiscoverSea Tent after watching his first video of South Africa’s incredible ocean life, his eyes wide and earnest, 4 year old Leroy looks up at…
By Lauren de Vos, 27th January 2014
The Overview Effect
“The sea remains the greatest wilderness. To my mind, voyaging through wildernesses, be they full of woods or waves, is essential to the growth and maturity of the human spirit.” – Steven Callahan, Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea I have to thank my friend Scott…
By Lauren de Vos, 22nd January 2014
The Power of your Plate
I’m mid-sentence, my brain thrashing lamely with statistical terminology, when my cellphone vibrates loudly on the wooden desk. I should really switch this thing off for meetings. I toss the offending piece of technology into my bag and resume my discussion on our False Bay…
By Lauren de Vos, 26th September 2013
Falling for False Bay
Who’d have thought that, when I started this project a little over a year and a half ago now, I’d fall so completely for False Bay’s charms? All the statistics and the science aside, there are days when I simply can’t help but celebrate living…
By Lauren de Vos, 16th May 2013
Listening is a way of teaching too
Monitoring. It’s a keyword that is often bandied about in conservation circles. “Effective long-term monitoring” is needed to keep track of our conservation efforts, our “resources”, our “dwindling” fish stocks, to make “informed decisions”… but I wonder how often it is that we stop to…
By Lauren de Vos, 16th May 2013
Struisbaai’s secrets
I have a bit of a confession to make. Somewhere, in the midst of nearly 300 hours of footage we’ve collected using our BRUVs to date, I forgot about some hidden gems I’ve been meaning to share for some time! Reasonably forgivable, perhaps, in light…
By Lauren de Vos, 22nd February 2013
Sharks in the Spotlight
Finding sharks on our cameras has become an event of a most philosophical nature for me. For every curious glance they give our cameras, for every thrill of excitement their regal presence brings, there is some flicker on sadness reflected in me that I somehow…
By Lauren de Vos, 5th February 2013
Summer in False Bay
Another 95 hours worth of filming across False Bay, and our summer survey is complete. The data collected during this period will provide a valuable comparison for the data we collected in winter, to give us an indication of whether the abundance and distribution of…
By Lauren de Vos, 26th November 2012
Celebrating our wilderness home: welcome to False Bay
I recently presented at the SOS Shark Centre’s marine conservation speaker series, and decided once again that images and video could speak far more eloquently to the point (and poignancy) of my work here in False Bay. My greatest concern, in translating the BRUV footage…
By Lauren de Vos, 26th November 2012
A Return to the Sea
As South Africans, we’ve inherited a phenomenal wilderness heritage. However, the majority of citizens in our beautiful country will never experience this, or grow to understand its value and love its unique diversity. Barred from our remaining wild spaces by prohibitive entrance fees, long distances…
By Lauren de Vos, 1st October 2012
Meet the BRUV(ver)hood
We have a new addition to our team here at the University of Cape Town, in the form of vivacious MSc Conservation Biology candidate, Carolyn Sanguinetti. Hailing from the UK, Carolyn received her BSc (Hons) in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Kent before moving…
By Lauren de Vos, 14th September 2012
Saving sharks from JAWS
“So, I want your ears and eyes open … I’m going to say something, and show you a picture, and the 5 fastest hands-up can tell me what words spring to mind first” It was an exciting morning for over 120 children from Sun Valley…
By Lauren de Vos, 27th August 2012
Exploring False Bay’s underwater fauna using BRUVS
For a girl raised on and inspired by red African soil, it’s a bit of a journey down to the ocean. However, an innate curiosity and passion for our wildest spaces ultimately led me to that great blue wilderness: the ocean. An Honours degree in…
By Lauren de Vos, 15th August 2012
Fins in False Bay
An element of surprise … There is some quality about my job that I find quite difficult to explain, and it has to do with the answer I give to the question that I am most commonly asked about this work. It has to do…
By Lauren de Vos, 21st July 2012
Rock(lobster)ing in False Bay
Who’d have thought, given the quantity of literature on the use of BRUVs for documenting large-bodied and mobile fish species, that we’d be finding it useful for mobile invertebrates in False Bay? Having watched a section of the winter samples, I’ve been captivated by the…
By Lauren de Vos, 21st July 2012
This is False Bay, on film …
There’s nothing quite like a good story. When I’m in the throes of fieldwork, smeared with sardines and sunburnt, it’s difficult to step out of the day-to-day hard work and see the overall conservation story unfolding. However, sometimes the ocean really plays in your favour…
By Lauren de Vos, 21st July 2012
The beauty of BRUVs …
Having given you a glimpse into what we’ve been up to, on land and on the boat, I figured the next step would be to showcase what the underwater world looks like when we survey it. In our bid to get those final 50 hours’…
By Lauren de Vos, 21st July 2012
Winter in False Bay … done and dusted!
96 hours of filming across False Bay. Nearly 2 months on permanent standby for good-weather days and calm sea conditions (a killer for any reasonably normal day-to-day life, trust me!) And, that’s a wrap! We’ve completed our first major survey of the Bay in winter…
By Lauren de Vos, 27th June 2012
Foiled by an octopus …
It seems you can think everything through … and then the ocean finds a way to outwit you! On a second trial run in False Bay a little while ago, we experienced thievery by a clever octopus once again – but we also captured a…
By Lauren de Vos, 26th June 2012
Bringing the ocean to our classrooms …
If you can’t hold your breath and swim strongly, SCUBA dive or access a boat, our oceans will remain a largely intangible underwater world to most South Africans That is unless, of course, we bring our oceans ashore … It’s not exactly the scientific side…
By Lauren de Vos, 20th June 2012
Testing, testing … 1,2,3!
If there’s one thing marine science has taught me, it’s that preparation is everything. The correct amount of fuel for the boat, the proper navigation equipment (and yes, properly plotted route!) and all the equipment loaded … and that’s before we’ve even left land! Part…
By Lauren de Vos, 20th June 2012
By way of explanation …
So, we’re busily working at sea right now and gathering lots of footage from the western side of False Bay. To keep you all in the loop while we do our fieldwork, however, I’ve uploaded a video that explains the research – and why we’re…
By Lauren de Vos, 15th May 2012
Lights, cameras, action!
So, some new research is headed for False Bay’s fishes … and it means something pretty exciting for monitoring and conservation along the entire South African coastline. Before I give you some updates on our testing and preparation phase, perhaps I should explain a little…
Project details

Baited remote underwater video (BRUV) assessment of False Bay ichthyofauna

Key objective

To deploy baited remote underwater video (BRUV) stations in False Bay, providing the first comprehensive survey of fish and sharks across all habitats.

Why is this important

South African inshore fisheries collectively account for the capture of more than 600 fish and shark species, but the logistics associated with long-term monitoring mean that the conservation status of less than 20 of these species is adequately assessed. BRUV technology represents a more cost-effective, time-efficient method of data collection with a low environmental impact that can be used for long-term ecosystem assessments.


Current monitoring techniques for fish populations in South Africa (SCUBA surveys and controlled angling surveys) are expensive, reliant on skilled labour, and usable only to certain depths and in particular ocean conditions. BRUV technology is evolving rapidly as camera technology becomes more affordable and increases in resolution quality.

The concept is simple: fish are attracted within the field of view of an underwater camera, and the footage is brought ashore to be analysed. The use of GoPro HD cameras attached to easy-to-deploy rigs takes advantage of easy-to-access technology and adds an innovative tool to existing monitoring methods. To maximise data collection, multiple camera rigs are buoyed off to film fish in False Bay simultaneously for one hour each.

The development of this methodology will provide conservation agencies and marine protected area (MPA) managers with a time-efficient tool that eliminates some of the obstacles that currently hinder sustainable monitoring of our fish populations. This False Bay survey will directly impact the future of affordable, sustainable underwater monitoring in South Africa. Beyond its scientific scope and relevance, the project will impact the way marine environments – and particularly MPAs – are understood and accessed by the public. Video footage used as scientific data plays an equally important role in education, making False Bay and its life a tangible reality that the public is both privy to and responsible for. This project offers a phenomenal opportunity to close a gap between scientists, fishers and the public, while obtaining sound scientific data that will guide conservation decisions in one of South Africa’s most utilised and valuable coastal bays.

Aims & objectives

The general aim of this project is to provide a video-based survey of sharks and fishes in False Bay, with the following objectives:

  • Obtaining measures of species richness and community composition of sharks and fishes in False Bay.
  • Assessing relative abundance of commercially targeted and conservation-interest species.
  • Providing educational videos of False Bay’s marine life.