Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seasons end….

Well the 2009 Seychelles Whale Shark Monitoring Programme is now officially closed as of the 31st of October although our last in-water monitoring session was in fact six days earlier as a change in the wind seasons put pay to flying for several days and also caused the sharks to move off to more fruitful waters….

So this compiled with the loss of the first ten days of the season have made 2009 one of the shortest monitoring periods in the history of the programme. That said, even if somewhat short, the season has been very productive with 89 sharks identified from a total of 291 in-water encounters which compares very favourably to the figures from 2008 where we were only able to identify 64 sharks from 139 encounters

Shark statistics:
291 in-water encounters

89 individual whale sharks identified

42 sharks identified from previous seasons

47 new sharks identified this season
81 sharks sexed (71 male and 10 female) 2
1 tissue sample biopsies taken

Aerial Survey:

74 microlight flights completed

140 hours and 59 minutes
of survey flown
443 whale shark sightings recorded

Boat Trips:
43 boat trips operated

95 hours and 25 mins spent on survey

As with last year season’s end was also Halloween and so it was only fitting that we saw the season out with a Halloween party for the team, friends and colleagues from the Underwater Centre and Global Vision International…

The team with 'Nerdiness' being raised to new heights by John, Torri and Dominique!

While the idea of getting one of the interns to the airport at 05:30 the following morning wasn’t exactly enthralling, it didn’t dampen everyone’s resolve to celebrate a great ten weeks of working with these captivating sharks. This year the costumes were even more wacky than before with Dominique, Torri and John, setting a new level in ‘Nerdiness’; also the pumpkin (or papaya) carving contest attracted a broad range of entries from traditional ‘Jack o lanterns’ to fish and cats…. The cat (Abi) won!

Abi with her winning pumpkin (papaya) carving of a cat.... the fish looked scary!

As has become the norm, David thanked all the interns for a really productive season that not only saw a return to reasonable numbers of sharks encountered but also set new levels in terms of data capture and the highest rate of resightings from previous years to date (47%).

It was also the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye to Luke Riley who has been a team leader for the last two years. Luke is returning to Australia to run his own charter yacht business with his partner Lanni, based out of Coral Bay near Ningaloo, Western Australia. We wish them both well and are sure they are going to get lots of visitors from their time with us here!

Luke had prepared a superb leaving-pack for the interns including a DVD of their time in Seychelles and as a bonus David also presented each intern with a PADI Whale Shark Awareness Specialty certification…..

Luke presenting Abi with her leaving pack... nice job both!

After that it was time for some Halloween fun and games which this year included a ‘biopsy the whale shark’ game (similar to pinning the tail on the donkey) which was made all the more hilarious by the teams ‘guiding’ their blindfolded team mates into position to biopsy the shark… thank goodness they were better in the water with real sharks than they were at this game!

And so another season is over and David now has some hard decisions to make… firstly about which of the interns will be going to Djibouti at the end of the year and then who to invite back to be a team leader next year to replace Luke…

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