Tagging a whale shark in Djibouti
They did it. Two whale sharks have just been tagged in Djibouti. Just a year ago, NAUSICAA, the French National Sea Centre in Boulogne-sur-Mer, joined forces with the MEGAPTERA Association to launch a crowdfunding project for the tagging of the world’s largest fish, the whale shark.
The project was successful and one of NAUSICAA’s diver-handlers joined the MEGAPTERA team just before Christmas when it attached the tag during their 2016 operation.
The team responsible for tagging the shark was led by Daniel Jouannet from the MEGAPTERA Association accompanied by Ludwig Coulier, one of NAUSICAA’s shark handlers and a number of ecovolunteers. Two tags have been attached to whale sharks, one of them as a result of the crowdfunding operation launched by NAUSICAA at the end of 2015 on the Ulule website. More than one hundred people contributed to the project.
“It’s an incredible adventure to take part in this scientific expedition, says Philippe VALLETTE, Managing director at NAUSICAA. Now that the sharks have been tagged, people will be able to monitor their travels on a website. Researchers will be able to study this emblematic animal’s lifestyle, migration and breeding habits in great detail, because the tags will collect a range of data about depth, temperature and light. To date, their migration habits are still much unknown. During the study, the data will be decoded and analysed by scientists to monitor the animal’s behaviour and movements. This will improve conservation of the species.”
Now that the expedition is back in France, NAUSICAA will display original images of the operation in its TV studio.
The whale shark
The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the world’s largest fish and also one of the least known. This giant of the seas poses no threat to man; it feeds mainly on plankton, algae and microscopic animals which it takes in through its huge mouth. It has a massive, elongated body and greyish skin with characteristic checkerboard markings. Living in open seas and warm tropical oceans, it can grow to a length of 20 metres.
MEGAPTERA is a French association dedicated to the observation, knowledge and protection of marine mammals and whale sharks. It was an awareness of the richness and specific characteristics of the whale shark population in the Indian Ocean, and the lack of markers, which led to the launch of the MEGAPTERA approach based on research, education and sustainable conservation. To find out more about the whale shark and protect it more effectively, the association conducts regular photo identification, marking and tagging of these giants of the seas.