Operation Whale Shark

Posted on October 14, 2007
Written by: Shark Savers

Operation Whale Shark

Written by Matt Potenski   
Sunday, 14 October 2007 11:40

matpretataguer_200Matthew, a shark biologist for The Shark Research Institute (SRI) has agreed to blog for Shark Savers, sending dispatches and photos of the unfolding Operation Whale Shark study. He is overseeing the study for SRI in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the M/V Kairos. This will be second season of field research taking place over the Tanzanian summer, from November 2007 through March 2008. Matthew had a very successful field season last year, tagging 25 whale sharks, identifying over 30 individuals using the area, and attaching 8 satellite telemetry tags to Mafia Island whale sharks. This upcoming season will be very exciting as observations on returning sharks and the return of satellite tag data will help to unravel population structure and migration patterns in the sharks under study.

Whale sharks are still hunted in some areas of the Indian Ocean, and understanding their migrational patterns will aid in determining where conservation efforts need to be focused. Additionally, all whale sharks can be told apart by their distinctive and individual spot patterns – much like fingerprints in humans. Researchers in many areas (including Mafia Island) of the Indian Ocean are taking spot-ID photos and submitting them to a centralized database so that large-scale connections of sightings can be correlated and population numbers estimated and clues to migration patterns supported.

Matthew has been studying sharks and rays for the past nine years in several countries, including the Bahamas, Honduras, the Cayman Islands, and even the sharks Meccas of the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador and Cocos Island of Costa Rica. He has worked under the auspices of SRI’s “Operation Whale Shark” to tag and learn about these ocean giants in three different ocean basins. Eventually, he used his knowledge and experience to secure the role of principal investigator for the Mafia Island Whale Shark Behavior & Migrations project.

Matthew Potenski has joined us to give you an inside look at the frontline of shark conservation via scientific research in this Shark Savers exclusive field journal Blog! Please check back with Shark Savers to see the fieldwork in Tanzania Progress.

Please see related websites:

The Shark Research Institute
The World Wildlife Fund
The Kairos Company
Whale Shark Photo-ID Database