Launch of the Shark and Rays project in the Red Sea
18 October 2012
The Cousteau Society is pleased to announce the first ever collaborative work to study and protect the Red Sea sharks and rays begins today, carried out by a college of scientists working in partnership with The Cousteau Society.
Little is known about the movements and numbers of sharks and manta rays in the Red Sea: species that are key component of the world’s marine biodiversity. Manta rays, symbol of freedom in the oceans, are highly vulnerable and designated as a near-threatened species since 2006 by the IUCN, and more than 100 millions of sharks are removed from our oceans every year around the world. It is time to preserve these unique species!
The first fieldwork phase will be carried out for four weeks at a time, beginning this week following years of tireless work to secure required permits, scientific equipment and expertise. Scientists are being deployed into the field for the first time to collect data on size, migratory patterns, feeding habits, habitat, swimming depths and possible nursery grounds. The expert team of researchers will carry out state-of-the-art fieldwork in the Dungonab Bay Marine Park to study the iconic species of manta rays and along the offshore reefs to monitor reef sharks population. A raft of new technologies will be employed in this unparalleled project including satellite and acoustic tags and the establishment of a network of seabed monitors. An individual code will be transmitted every time a tagged animal passes within a 500-metre radius of a bottom monitor identifying movement and residency patterns along coastal and offshore reefs of the Red Sea.
Monitoring the species will generate essential baseline information on sharks and rays population producing the critical first block in establishing effective management and conservation strategies to protect the globally iconic species. The information will also be utilized to initiate sustainable and regulated ecotourism related activities to benefit the local population. Because sharks and rays are facing human threats all around the world, a success story in the Red Sea would have a ripple effect for the conservation of these species, and the project model could be reproduce in many countries.
The multi-faceted project involves institutions such as the Red Sea University, the Wildlife Administration, the University of Windsor (Canada), the King Abdullah University of Science et Technology and other local stakeholders creating an exchange of skills, competencies to forge sustainability for management of marine resources. The Deep, a charitable aquarium organization dedicated to marine conservation is helping to fund the project and also employing staff whose experience in handling large animals is essential to the safe tagging of sharks and rays.
Follow the fieldwork progress through the Cousteau team log >>
Meet the team >>