24 – 27 April 2010
To address some important questions about where sharks spend their time and what habtitats are important to them, a whale shark tagging program was set up four years ago in Donsol for whale shark conservation. With funding for megafauna research from WWF Denmark managed by Lene Topp, and quite a number of tags supported by Kerzner Marine Foundation, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI) and Project Aware, American scientist Dr. Brent Stewart, Senior Research Biologist of HSWRI from San Diego was able to tag, on the fourth year of the project, whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines. Since 2007, 29 sharks have been tagged in Donsol.
WWF Denmark is supporting the overall whale shark program in Donsol. Other than the scientific tagging program, they also help fund the management and enforcement of the rules and regulations pertaining to responsible tourism whale shark interactions.
This summer, nine whale sharks were tagged with archival tags. The small white archival tag records the water temperature and depth movement of the shark the tag is attached to. This tag must be physically removed to recover the stored data.
Also this year, six sharks were tagged with pop-up satellite tags or (PAT) tags. The PAT tags records the whale shark’s habits, swimming patterns, preferred swimming depths, water temperature and swimming speed.
The PAT tag gets released on a programmed date and it floats to the surface. It transmits stored data to Earth-orbiting satellites for 7-10 days and the data is sent to the tagger (Brent) within a month.
We got to Donsol with the two last tags waiting for us – a PAT tag and an archival tag. The other 13 tags have been efficiently deployed by speedy Brent the past week since he got there. Lucky us to still get there in time to document this major scientific event.
By mid-day it was all over. There were many other tourist boats in the water and we were one of perhaps 15 boats out there. It was a very good season for Donsol.
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