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Satellite Tags Reveal Surprising Whale Shark Movements

August 16, 2017 Cruise No Comments Email Email

In 2015 guests on-board the adventure-cruise ship TRUE NORTH teamed-up with marine researchers from Conservation International and started to deploy fin-mounted satellite tags on whale sharks encountered during the ship’s Whale Sharks of Cenderwasih Bay itinerary. And the results have proved to be quite surprising.

Each year the revered TRUE NORTH visits biodiverse Cenderwasih which lies adjacent to the spectacular Raja Ampat islands in West Papua and, everybody on-board gets a chance to swim with the ‘resident’ population of whale sharks. These encounters are quite different to more typical whale shark encounters because the sharks have formed a unique relationship with the local fisherman and, they are easily approached.

Their docile behaviour has allowed biologists to fix fin-mounted tags – a more durable type of satellite tag and, the tags have been providing unexpected data about where the sharks travel when they are not in swimming in the bay.

Conservation International’s Mark Erdmann reports “Perhaps the most surprising finding has been just how differently each of the tagged sharks has behaved. We expected to see some generalized tracks of migration but in reality each shark has largely done its own thing!”

One of the sharks has been a bit of a homebody only leaving Cenderawasih Bay once in 25 months, whilst one of the smallest sharks to be tagged – a 3 metre individual known as “Fijubeca”, has clocked-up an impressive 9000 kilometres during a similar period. The 6 metre “Moby” has recorded the deepest dive getting down to 1856 metres in the Mariana Trench whilst similar sized “Cheggers” has spent most of his time close to the surface. “Wally” has preferred to spend his time close to shore whilst other individuals have completed impressive oceanic swims.

Importantly, the satellite data has highlighted several regions of West Papua that are frequented by migrating whale sharks and, those areas are now being considered for inclusion in Indonesia’s marine park system.

The TRUE NORTH returns to Cenderawasih Bay in October and it is hoped that more sharks will be added to the tagging program.

FAST FACTS

  • True North Adventure Cruises has won a plethora of awards for excellence including state and national tourism awards, export awards and numerous consumer awards.
  • Australia’s premier luxury adventure-cruise ship, the TRUE NORTH is purpose-built to sail deep into the heart of the wilderness, visiting areas that larger ships cannot access. Guests are privy to very-high quality off-ship experiences courtesy of the ship’s biologist and a team of naturalists, a ship’s helicopter and six dedicated adventure boats.
  • Exceptional food and wine are also at the heart of a TRUE NORTH experience. The ship’s modern Australian cuisine is supplemented with locally sourced ingredients and complemented by an outstanding selection of Western Australian wines. Cabins are spacious and modern; there is a panoramic lower deck dining room, an alfresco bar, an observation lounge and a dedicated sports deck.
  • Daily activities include scenic walks, fishing, snorkelling, diving, picnics, cultural events and spectacular flights in the ship’s helicopter.
  • Destinations include the Kimberley – a panorama of rugged mountains, spectacular gorges and majestic waterfalls; the still-wild coast of Western Australia featuring the intriguing Abrolhos Islands, world-famous Ningaloo Reef, fishing paradise at the Montebello Islands and, the pristine Rowley Shoals; some of Indonesia’s most stunning volcanic islands including Komodo – home to the largest lizard on the planet; the breathtaking islands of the Raja Ampat; the whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay; the mighty Sepik River and the un-spoilt islands of Papua New Guinea; beautiful Sydney Harbour and, a seafood safari around South Australia’s delightful Eyre Peninsular!

For more information go to www.truenorth.com.au

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