World Ocean's Day 2022

World Oceans Day is held on 8 June every year to raise awareness of the vital importance of our oceans and the role they play in sustaining a healthy planet. A global celebration, it looks to bring people and organisations together across the world in a series of events highlighting how we can all help protect and conserve our oceans.
 

The Galapagos Islands

 
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most ecologically important, but vulnerable, areas in the world. 
Rhyme & Reason is proud to support Galapagos Conservation Trust via its 1% for the planet membership. This means that every time you buy a bottle of Rhyme & Reason you are helping to support this important cause.

Situated in the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 km from mainland South America, the Islands and surrounding Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) are home to an amazing range of plants and animals.
 
Daphne Major
Daphne Major, a small volcanic island situated just north of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos. ©Kevin Purohit
 
The GMR boasts one of the richest concentrations of biodiversity on the planet, with huge numbers of endangered species such as whale and hammerhead sharks, eagle rays and Galapagos penguins. 
 
Hammerhead shark
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark. ©Jonathon Green
 

The Galapagos Conservation Trust

 
Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) is the only UK registered charity to focus solely on the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. By raising funds and awareness in the UK, GCT is able to support and deliver projects in Galapagos and respond to key threats facing the Islands. One of these is the Endangered Sharks of Galapagos Project. 
 
Hammer Head Sharks
Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks. ©Jonathon Green
 
Many of the sharks found in Galapagos are migratory. Once they swim outside of protected waters, they are at great risk from industrial fishing. GCT is trying to learn more about the migration of sharks, so that we can get better protection for them within and outside of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR).
 

Whale Shark Monitoring: Tagging Ocean Giants

 
In April 2022, a ground-breaking research expedition took place to tag and track several key migratory marine species in the GMR.
Working onboard a local fishing boat, a team of expert scientists placed satellite tags on scalloped hammerhead and blue sharks, and yellowfin tuna, as part of a larger study to establish their movement patterns and the role of marine protected areas in their conservation.

However, the main target of the trip was to tag and track elusive endangered whale sharks to get a better idea of their full migratory loop. As it is hard to spot even these large creatures in huge areas of ocean, Julio Vizuete, from ‘Ecuador Bajo Mis Alas’ (Ecuador Under My Wings), used his ultralight airplane to search for whale sharks around the islands and seamounts. Once whale sharks were spotted, he radioed the scientists on the boat.
 
Expedition Team
The expedition team (From left to right: Manuel Yepez, Sofía Green, Angela Palomino, Boris Jaime, Cameron Perry, Galo Rueda, Elaine Alberts, Fernando Fonseca, Kady Lyons, Roberto Herrera, Yuri Gagarine Revelo, Alex Hearn). ©Alex Hearn.
 
With Julio’s help, the team encountered ten whale sharks and were able to place six satellite tags, all on large females. It was an amazing success! We now want to carry out more expeditions using aerial searches, around Galapagos and along
the coastal waters of mainland Ecuador to find and tag more whale sharks and other large marine species, to get the vital information needed to protect them from extinction.
Whale Watching Plane
Ultralight aircraft searching for whale sharks ©Alex Hearn.

Discovering new threats

 

Understanding the movements of sharks is important to protect them from threats such as industrial fishing. Marine biologists from the Marine Biological Association (MBA) and the University of Southampton have recently published a new research article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, which suggests that industrial shipping may be leading to a large number of whale shark deaths across the world.
Whale shark numbers have been declining in recent years in many locations, but it is not entirely clear why this is happening. As whale sharks spend a large amount of time near the surface and gather in coastal regions, experts think that collisions with large ships could be causing many whale shark deaths. 
Through their research, the team revealed that over 90% of whale shark movements crossed shipping activity.
 
GCT simon pierce
Whale Shark ©Simon Pierce.
 
The study also showed that signals from the satellite tags placed on whale sharks are frequently ending abruptly when the whale sharks are in busy shipping lanes. The team concluded this is likely due to whale sharks being struck, killed and sinking to the ocean floor.
At present there are no international regulations to protect whale sharks against ship collisions. The beautiful whale shark faces an uncertain future if action is not taken soon. We hope the findings can inform management decisions and help prevent a further decline in whale shark numbers.
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How You Can Help

Surprisingly little is known about the whale shark. By supporting projects, like the ones above, Galapagos Conservation Trust hopes to discover crucial insights into the lives of whale sharks to help save them from extinction.
 
Please help us conserve the sharks of Galapagos today by donating to our Endangered Sharks of Galapagos programme or becoming a GCT member.
 
GCT Simon Pierce
Whale Shark ©Simon Pierce.
 


Galapagos Conservation Trust

 

 [Feature image: Whale Shark ©Simon Pierce.]

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