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Marine Megafauna Newsletter: 2016 is off to a good start

 

I hope everyone is having a great start to 2016!

While we sympathise with those of you suffering cold weather at the moment, we've been enjoying basking (and, admittedly, sometimes sweltering) in the Southern Hemisphere heat. Like I said though, we sympathise. Ignore the tan. 

Most of the MMF whale shark team spent the last months of 2015 on Mafia Island in Tanzania, where we had another excellent field season. I’ll be hosting another research expedition this November, so I hope to see some of you there. 

At our HQ in Mozambique, the New Year brought the start of the first phase of our Sustainable Seas initiative, where our conservation team is partnering with coastal communities to reduce threatened marine species catch. We plan for this to expand into helping address the food security issues that are so often the root cause of unsustainable fishing practices in these remote areas.

We were very pleased to host two visiting whale shark researchers: Alex Childs, who is working in the Maldives with MWSRP, and Stella Diamant, who is developing a whale shark research program in Madagascar. Alex has been nice enough to write a lovely blog about the experience, so check that out here. 

We have lots, and more, conservation and science initiatives underway this year. Bad jokes aside, it’s serious stuff. We are always very conscious that time is rapidly running out for many of the animals we love most. We know what we need to do, but we need your help to achieve these goals. I hope you will consider supporting us in this work.  

Best wishes and fishes,

Dr. Simon Pierce

Co-founder and Principal Scientist, Marine Megafauna Foundation
 

An ocean of thanks

Earlier this month, our very own Dr. Andrea Marshall was honoured with an Ocean Award for her contribution to marine conservation at an inaugrual awards ceremony hosted by Blue Marine Foundation and Boat International.

Andrea on receiving the award: "I am honored to receive this inaugural Ocean Award from Blue Marine Foundation and Boat International. My team and I continually strive to push the envelope and hope that by contributing original research with clear conservation angles, we can help to support effective management plans for these iconic and economically important species."

Keeping track of whale sharks

The high frequency of resightings of individual sharks off Mafia Island, Tanzania provides us with the opportunity to track their lives in detail over multiple years. During our 2015 field season from October to December, we recorded 289 encounters of 66 invididual sharks. 

In addition to deploying some archival tags, we also collected tissue samples to examine long-term diet, and remeasured whale sharks to better understand their growth, which in turn can help us evaluate their longevity and susceptibility to human threats.

Stay tuned!

Leopard sharks pay Tofo a visit

Our research divers in Tofo have been enjoying the influx of leopard sharks that have moved into coastal waters to find a mate. Characterised by a pattern of dark spots, leopard sharks are known to live up to 30 years, taking more than a decade to reach maturity. Best of luck, little sharkies. 

 To find out how you can support the Marine Megafauna Foundation please visit their website.

 
 
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Above: Andrea Marshall wrote the first doctoral thesis on manta rays, exploring the physical and figurative depths of this highly threatened species.
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