For 2023 we decided to head to Nosy Be earlier in the year than we normally would to allow us to spend some time on operator training ahead of the whale shark season. This is becoming a major focus as tourism is growing fast in Nosy Be. We also welcomed a new team member, Océane, who is working to develop tools supporting sustainable marine megafauna interactions. Another exciting task we focused on was to service the receiver stations and download the data collected.
Here are our latest updates from the field, as we finalise the preparations for our sixth season here in Nosy Be!
Recovering acoustic data after 7 months
In June we retrieved our 8 receiver stations, downloaded all the data, then redeployed them again immediately, allowing us to continue recording whale shark movements. The stations were out in the water between mid-December and mid-June so – as well as being relieved that we were able to find them all again – we’re excited to start looking through and see what the data reveals about the movement of whale sharks in Malagasy waters. We thank Baleines Rand’eau, Scuba Nosy Be and Ylang Dive Center for the logistical support as all of this was done on scuba.
Our partner organisation Marine Megafauna Foundation is busy looking through the findings. It will take some time to create a full report but preliminary results show some of the sharks are coming through Nosy Be outside the usual tourist season (September to December). When the data has been fully processed, we’ll share our latest insights! Meanwhile we hope some of the 34 tagged sharks of 2022 will stay around and continue to transmit their movements to the receiver stations.
114 guides and skippers trained in Nosy Be
We’ve also now successfully completed our 2023 operator training session in collaboration with Cétamada, the country’s leading humpback whale NGO and official organisation designated to deliver code of conduct training by the Tourism Ministry. This year, we worked together to provide operators with complete training on the Code of Conduct for interactions with all megafauna, including whale sharks, turtles, rays, and humpback whales.
We wanted to host these training sessions ahead of the season before the wildlife arrives, to ensure most operators could attend. We held one day of focused training for skippers. This was spent going through the theory before running a practical session at sea, both on Nosy Be and Nosy Komba. We also held a three-day training course specifically designed for tourism guides, with practical sessions and a little exam at the end!
Equipping operators with this knowledge vital now that tourism is returning to Madagascar, so we were thrilled to certify 114 people in total, thanks to funding from the Archipelagic and Island States Forum, and help from Cetamada, with support from the Sarimanok Hotel, and the Nositours boats.
A huge congratulations to everyone who certified and thank you for helping us keep Malagasy waters safe for the island’s amazing megafauna and the tourists who come to see them.
499 identified whale sharks and counting!
Two new sharks have already been sighted as we await the start of the season to cross the 500 mark! We never expected to find such a big population of whale sharks here in Nosy Be. Yet the island is facing unprecedented pressure in terms of tourism, with more international flights landing every week and new hotels popping up everywhere. Our mission couldn’t be more important; protecting the sharks we love. This starts with awareness and education amongst both operators and visitors. For this reason we are busy restructuring the team and expanding, as we need even more support and expertise as we enter this new phase.
This could not be possible without your help! We are incredibly grateful for your generosity and support, which motivates us to keep fighting for whale shark protection here in Madagascar, and to empower more ambassadors locally.