The 2019 season: a mid-season update

October 26, 2019

Whale sharks everywhere !

This season has been incredibly busy, as whale sharks started showing up in August already! This meant a very short season preparation window for us, and lots of data to collect and process without volunteers, as it was so early on in the season. Here is a recap of the last few weeks…

A growing team

We have already welcomed and trained seven volunteers, Blaise, Agathe, Mélina, Romain, Marie-Amélie, Magali and Marcel, who are out on the boats of partner operators Les Baleines Rand’eau and Safari Baleine, to collect data on whale sharks. Thanks to their help so far we have identified 60 different whale sharks this year, with 30 known individuals from previous years such as Michel, Alphonse, Pierrot … We are happy to see them back and alive! Although it is a bit quieter now, we have been seing up to nine sharks per day through the last month, our busiest September so far !

Also joining us this year is Léa, who stepped in as project coordinator for this season, assisting me at the office, and Tiana, who is helping us collect socio-economic data from tourists to further investigate the value of whale shark tourism in Madagascar.

Capacity building

This year I led a training session for guides and captains in early September to refresh everyone’s memory about the code of conduct, and ensure it is respected. More than 40 people showed up and the training was a big success. Bruno, our education officer, and I, were invited to feature on national radio to speak about the code of conduct.

Another training event is planned over consecutive days in November in partnership with Cetamada and the Regional Tourism Office of Nosy Be, aligning with the upcoming legal status of the code of conduct, which will become a law in Madagascar in the near future. We are very excited and proud about these results !

New science

We are excited to announce that we recently secured donations from Georgia Aquarium, Florida International University and Marine Megafauna Foundation to initiate a baseline tagging study in 2020 looking at site-fidelity and cryptic residency in Nosy Be, basically figuring out how long whale sharks stay in Nosy Be and whether they use the site year-round, which has important conservation implications.

With fellow whale shark researcher Dr. Clare Prebble, who was coming to visit Nosy Be this year, we started investigating and exploring the area in search of diving spots where we could deploy the acoustic stations next year. Big thanks to project friend Jacques Vieira for the help and support, we have successfully identified sites for the stations. We are still looking for more tags so please get in touch if you might be able to help.

The next step is to deploy the stations at the beginning of next year’s season, in 2020!

If you are in Nosy Be, we are giving a presentation on our work every Monday at 6pm at Tsy Manin bar in Madirokely.

More next month! Until then you can follow our updates on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook ! Thanks to Clare for the pictures.