PUERTO PRINCESSA, Palawan, May 3, 2017– Researchers from Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) and Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) have successfully tagged nine grey reef sharks and one tiger shark with acoustic tags in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Philippines, a continuation of a study started in 2016. The tiger shark was also fitted with a satellite tag.
The study, which is the first of its kind in the country, is a collaboration between Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) and the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) as part of their on-going work to study the sharks and rays of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park; a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest no-take marine protected area in the Philippines.
“Tubbataha Reefs is a vital study site to understand the habits of sharks with the ultimate goal of using this information to restore depleted coastal waters.” – LAMAVE Executive Director Alessandro Ponzo.
The strict protection of the park has made it the ultimate place in the Philippines to encounter reef sharks and is one of very few places in the country where divers can encounter tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks, making it one of the last refuges for sharks in the coral triangle. The findings from the study will be crucial for understanding how these top predators use this protected area and will provide managers and policy-makers with key information on how to effectively manage these species, contributing to national planning to conserve sharks nationwide.
The acoustic tags which are carefully fitted to the shark, are able to interact with acoustic receivers, waterproof listening devices that pick up and record individual signals from the tags as the shark swim by. The receivers can pick up signals within an 800-meter range and a total of seven receivers have been positioned underwater across the park. The interaction between the tags and the receivers allows researchers to study the habitat use and movement patterns of grey reef and tiger sharks within the Natural Park. The tiger shark was also fitted with a satellite tag, which can transmit to passing satellites when the shark breaks the surface – thus revealing the shark’s long-term movements, potentially outside of the park. The team also tagged two Reef Mantas (Manta alfredi) with acoustic tags. Both individuals had been seen in the park in 2016 and by fitting a tag, the team hope to understand how they too are using this protected area.
The research expedition, which has been nicknamed “Expedition Shark” marked the third year of collaboration between LAMAVE and TMO. In 2015, the first expedition focused on tagging whale sharks in order to track their movements outside the park, in 2016 the team fitted the first tiger shark in the Coral Triangle with a satellite tag, as well as tagging four grey reef sharks with acoustic tags. The team will expand the acoustic network later this year by deploying receivers in the waters of Cagayancillo an archipelagic municipality located around 130km northeast of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. The position of the receivers at Cagayancillo will shed light on short and long term habitat use and providing essential information for WWF-Philippines and the LGU of Cagayancillo to design new shark sanctuaries. The acoustic tags are able to transmit for 3, 5 or 10 years, and while it is only the beginning, the research is the Philippines’ most significant shark study to date.
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1. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is the largest no-take marine protected area in the Philippines. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The park is managed and protected by the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, the Tubbataha Management Office and the Marine Park Rangers.
2. Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) is the largest independent non-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of marine megafauna and their habitats in the Philippines. LAMAVE strives for conservation through scientific research, policy and education.
3. Research activities have been carried out under Palawan Council for Sustainable Development- Wildlife Gratuitous Permit 2017-05.