Whale shark MPA in Mozambique
© Simon J. Pierce / Shark Foundation
Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)
This project has been designed at the request of the Mozambican government to provide the scientific basis for a marine protected area for whale sharks off the coast of southern Mozambique.
Whale sharks are globally threatened on the IUCN Red List due to targeted fisheries, accidental catches in net fisheries and other human pressures such as ship strikes. Whale sharks are one of the three shark species listed in CITES appendix II.
As plankton-feeders, whale sharks tend to aggregate in certain locations on a predictable basis to exploit bursts in productivity. Whale sharks are circumglobally distributed and appear to have naturally low population sizes. These periodic aggregations are therefore thought to play an important role in whale shark ecology. Successful conservation of this species depends on effective protection of their critical habitats.
© Google / Shark Foundation
Tofo Beach off the coast of southern Mozambique.
The coastal area near Tofo Beach in southern Mozambican waters is an internationally-important feeding area for whale sharks, with over 20 % of the known world population of the species identified from this single site (ECOCEAN Global Whale Shark Database, www.whaleshark.org). This project will provide the site utilisation data necessary for the design of an effective marine protected area (MPA) for the species. From a local perspective, whale sharks are also a valuable economic resource due to their importance to the tourism industry.
Whale sharks will be tagged with acoustic "pinger" tags and monitored with an array of strategically-placed passive acoustic receivers to assess local-scale movements, overall site residency patterns and migratory behaviour. These data will be used to assess where the MPA should be centred, and how large an area needs to be zoned so as to protect the bulk of the feeding area. There are two major scientific objectives for the project:
(1) to assess the residency patterns of individual whale sharks
(2) to quantify the most-frequented area of coastline by whale sharks within the region.
Little work has been done on site-residency patterns in this species, and the Tofo Beach area serves as a unique case study due to the consistent presence of whale sharks. The data gathered will be a significant contribution to knowledge of these huge, yet enigmatic sharks. In an applied sense, effective protection for this major aggregation will be a major contribution towards the worldwide conservation of the species.
Project leader: Simon J. Pierce
The project starts in July 2009 and will be completed in 2012. The Foundation supports this project for 2009/2010 with $21'000.
Bull Shark Tagging Programme, Fiji
The Bull Shark Tagging Programme aims at a better understanding of the behaviour, ecology and aspects of population biology of bull sharks in the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean using direct and indirect observation methods as well as genetic techniques. Direct observation of bull sharks allows to get insight into the secret life of these elusive apex predators that are not possible to obtain with other methods. Since 2003, bull sharks have been observed by SCUBA divers in their natural habitat in Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Fiji. This allows to obtain, for example, data for estimating the local population size. At the same time, tissue samples are taken regularly that help to reveal the global genetic structure of the bull shark
© Klaus Jost / Shark Foundation
Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas).
In Fiji and in the Atlantic (Bahamas and Florida), small- and large-scale movement patterns of bull sharks have been investigated using acoustic and satellite telemetry methods. Pop-up satellite archival tags have been externally attached to bull sharks. These tags collect pressure, temperature, and light-intensity data. After a preset attachment interval the tags detach from the shark, float to the water surface and transmit the archived data via satellite to the researcher. These data give information on large-scale movements (over hundreds of kilometers) away from the tagging site and insight into diving patterns, and therefore allow a better definition of the ecological niche of the bull shark.
© Jürg Brunnschweiler
Preparing the highly complex transmitter.
As part of the Bull Shark Tagging Programme, acoustic transmitters have been fed to, externally attached onto or surgically implanted into bull sharks. Such tagged sharks are then picked up by receivers placed over the reefs whenever they come into detection range (several to dozens of meters depending on the reef topography). This allows to track the small-scale movement patterns of bull sharks as well as monitoring the presence/absence of individual sharks within a protected area. Additionally, acoustic transmitters that are fed to the sharks can record stomach temperature to provide important physiological data.
Project leader: Jürg Brunnschweiler
The Foundation finances part of the project since 2004, especially transmitters and receivers.
Investment until today: CHF 41'200