Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010 Season’s End

Well what a variable whale shark season 2010 was! The season has now officially ended with the last two weeks being almost completely devoid of sharks both on morning and afternoon aerial surveys; however, that said, it was still the second best season ever in terms of the number of individual sharks identified and the number of shark encounters logged, only 2006 has produced higher numbers. In total 148 individual sharks were identified by our photo ID programme: 88 were new sharks while 60 had been seen in previous years. In all we had 397 in-water encounters with one shark (sey2005.083) being encountered 12 times during the course of the season.

So what’s been happening over the past two weeks? Well quite a bit really, although we haven’t had the numbers we were still able to operate a few in-water encounter trips and luckily the few sharks we had were very cooperative and allowed multiple and long encounters, as well as the chance to get all the photo IDs and measurements taken. Only four trips were run on which we had a total of eight encounters with six sharks.

The last shark we saw was sey.2005.059. We first saw this shark during this season on 27/09/10 in the south, then again in the south on 13/10/10. Then he was up at Grand Anse on the last day (29/10/10). He was 6m long and on the last day was seen cruising slowly in shallow water through the plankton but not feeding. He is also an Umberto imposter with a big U on his right hand side, much to Abi’s dissapointment!

Sey.2005.059 proudly showing off his Umberto like U .....

Similarly, the pilots weren’t finding many sharks on the aerial survey: during the 25 flights in the last two weeks a total of 14 sharks were sighted with a maximum of 3 on a single flight... but the aerial survey tracks still needed to be worked up each day which kept the interns out of too much mischief! However, we did have a fair bit of spare time during which it became clear that Gareth was not a natural under-water scooter pilot!

Scooters are not Gareth's strong point!

Also, with the end of season fast approaching there was a lot of activity for the traditional end of season / Haloween BBQ and this year the interns took the creative costume theme to new heights! But more of that on the next post!