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1, Mar, 2014

As part of our continued efforts to raise awareness about marine conservation and in particular shark conservation, Scubafish are proud to be hosting a Shark Guardian presentation and awareness event tomorrow evening at their Headquarters in Kantiang Bay.

Brendon Ward-Sing - Shark Guardian DirectorShark Guardian’s Founder and Director Brendon Sing will present a shark and marine presentation at Scubafish Ko Lanta, Thailand, on Sunday 2nd March at 20:30. This is an open event and all are welcome to attend.

Learn about sharks, their importance, different species, threats and conservation efforts.

The Shark Guardian Presentation is an exciting, state of the art educational slideshow, with amazing picture slides and videos related to sharks and the marine ecosystem, with a strong focus on conservation. This is their greatest tool for educational development.

The presentation will also include updates on Spot the Leopard Shark Project – Thailand and Thailand eShark with simple ways for all to get involved in protecting our most precious species.

 

Spot the Leopard Shark Project

Spot the Leopard Shark

Spot the Leopard Shark is a brand new project that was launched on Phi Phi Island in August 2013. It is a community project that is being promoted and used by Shark Guardian.

Leopard Shark at Ko Phi Phi

It’s easy to be involved – all you have to do is submit any photos of leopard sharks that you have from Thai waters with information on where and when you took them. We’ll use these photos and information to address questions of how many leopard sharks there are in Thailand, which areas they use, how this changes over time, how long they live, etc. So every time you take a photo, you are also being a marine biologist and collecting data! So far we are proud to have identified and named 6 new Leopard Sharks already – you can read more about this here.

Leopard Shark Anemone Reef ThailandLeopard sharks are classified as Vulnerable to Extinction on the IUCN Red List. This is the same classification as for polar bears and the great white shark. There is a lot of effort around the globe to help save polar bears and white sharks but not so for leopard sharks. However, the good news is that we have a powerful tool to use and a lot of data that already exists to start making this effort.

You may not think of it as a scientific tool as such, but digital photography has opened up whole new ways to conduct research. It’s quite new (only really the last 15 years) and increasingly affordable. With so many divers in the water armed with cameras, the capacity for collecting data is fantastic. With high speed internet, these photos can easily be submitted to a central database through email and social media.

How to take ID photos of Leopard Sharks

The reason photos can be so useful is because each individual leopard shark has a unique spotting pattern that can be used to tell them apart. Individual markings are common for sharks and rays and have been used to study manta rays, whale sharks, white shark and black tip reef sharks. The tricky thing with leopard sharks is that they undergo one of the most dramatic changes in body markings of any shark. The babies have bold dark and light stripes that break up into spots as they turn into an adult (in contrast manta rays and whale sharks have the same marking throughout life). We don’t really know when the patterns stop changing. But we do know that they are stable in the adults as some of Brendon’s studies have shown in southern Queensland, Australia.

 

The Thailand eShark Project

Thailand eShark ProjectThe new Thailand eShark Project aims to get divers to take part in the Thailand eShark Project between the 01st November 2013 and 30 April 2014! All divers and snorkelers are invited to log their historic shark sightings and future shark sightings in Thailand. No Shark sightings are just as important to log!

eShark provides a simple way for divers and snorkelers to report the sharks, rays and sawfish they see, and don’t see (zero’s are just as important!), in a way that is used to assess and monitor populations, communities and ecosystems. Most importantly these data are used to assess the need for, and success of marine management initiatives, including sanctuaries.

eShark surveys have been rigorously developed through collaborations with divers, statisticians, biologists and experts in the field of citizen science.

Whale Shark at Ko Haa

The Thailand eShark Project has been organized through Shark Guardian to collectively gather data from as many divers in Thailand as possible. This project hopes to be the largest project ever undertaken in one country by divers for shark conservation over a 6 month period. Shark Guardian recently conducted a survey to gather information regarding shark sightings by divers based in various diving locations in Thailand. Some of these divers have been based in these location for over 10 years. Surveys were collected from locations including:

  1. Pattaya
  2. Koh Tao
  3. Phi Phi Islands
  4. Phuket Island
  5. Similan Islands
  6. Koh Lanta

In one area, shark sightings over 6 years had dropped by 95%. In 2007 nearly 90 sharks were sighted while in 2012, less than 10 were seen over a 6 month period.

Black Tip Reef Shark

The Thailand eShark Project results will be used to raise awareness of declining shark populations in Thailand to the general public, Thai government and the Department of Marine Coastal Resources (DMCR) of Thailand. Additionally, to help improve protected marine parks with the aim of creating shark sanctuaries. The identification of shark species and areas is also an important step in determining the best method for recovery and protection.

Scubafish are proud to have been supporting the Global Shark Assessment Survey since 2008 when Christine Ward-Paige joined us for a dive trip to Hin Daeng so that she could perform a Shark Assessment in our area. It was with great pleasure that I dived with her and showed her her first Manta Ray!

 


 

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