Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 whale shark season gets underway`

The Seychelles whale shark season for 2009 has started if somewhat slowly!

This year’s groups of interns started their two week training programme on August 24th where they were introduced to the various skills and techniques that they would need for the coming season. The training was led by experienced MCSS team leaders Katie Brooks and Luke Riley who quickly had the newcomers working as a team and into the swing of all things whale shark!

Also during the first week micro-light pilot Johan Anderson, with the help of Luke and several of the interns, re-assembled our newly repaired aircraft ZU-EPE fresh from the manufacturers in South Africa, ready for the seasons activities.

Unfortunately, the weather to date has not been cooperative and while we have been able to get ZU-EPE airborne and all checked-out, as of September 9th we have only been able to complete one aerial survey, due to very strong and gusty winds that have been gusting to over 40 knots (74km/h)…. However we did find two sharks on that first survey flight and so we know that the sharks are indeed here!

In the mean time our interns have been fine tuning their skills, attending lectures on whale sharks from MCSS Chairman Dr. David Rowat, and getting down to the wet-work with plankton tows… Good news on that front as the plankton levels are also increasing and so things are looking favourable for more sharks in the coming weeks.

‘Pre-season’ sightings of whale sharks have been interesting with 12 in-water encounters allowing 8 sharks to be identified, 3 of which had been seen in previous years; 6 of the sharks were sexed with 5 being males and only 1was a female, which is the fairly typical ratio found in Seychelles.

Two return visitors first a 2007 shark while on the lower is one from 2006

The season is also looking good with respect to satellite tagging with two MK 10 PAT tags being available for deployment….

We will keep you up to date the activities of this year’s monitoring programme and over the next few weeks introduce you to the interns and what they have been up to!

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