Believing that it is the responsibility of all of us to protect and preserve our environment, Soldiers Point Marina is proud and privileged to announce our adoption of Moby – a 5m young male whale shark (Rhincodon typus) from Cendrawasih Bay located in West Papua New Guinea, fast becoming known as the whale shark capital of the world.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the sea and listed as “vulnerable”, so to give scientists a better understanding of their behaviour and movements a recent tagging program in October/November 2015 was conducted to allow scientists better management of them.
In this operation, headed by Marine Biologist Dr Mark Erdmann, five fin mounted satellite tags were deployed to five young male whale sharks ranging in size from 3-6m in length, one of which was Moby. The radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags can quickly determine the size of the bay’s population while also allowing scientists to monitor individuals’ movements in/outside the bay over the coming years.
We look forward to bringing you updates on Moby’s movements.
Everytime Moby surfaces, a tracker uploads the current location and depths he has dived to a satellite. If the quality of the uplink is good and the data is complete, we add the new location and depth below.
During the course of this assessment, I’m happy to let you know that we ran into Moby, who was looking happy and healthy. As you know, however, his tag had stopped regularly transmitting as the battery was running out. We were delighted to be able to catch him and remove/decommission his tag. Some exciting/interesting notes:
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Amazingly, Moby is looking like he’s undertaking the same incredible northerly journey he did last year – you’ll see from his map that he’s now left Cendrawasih Bay and is heading north again, as if to follow his same trip to the Mariana Trench/Yap that he did last year at this time! His transmissions are also coming less frequently (perhaps also indicative of a dying battery)- hopefully he will transmit long enough to confirm if he’s going back up to Yap. Again, extremely cool data to see what appears to be an annual pattern of movement.
Moby has the distinction of being our deepest diver and travelling the furthest north of any of our tagged sharks. After hanging in Cendrawasih for a few months, in early 2016 he went north to Biak and then continued north all the way up to Yap and the Mariana Trench! He then came down to Mapia atoll, over to Raja Ampat, and then back to Cendrawasih, where he has been hanging out ever since. During his travels, he hit 1886m for a dive – one of the deepest ever recorded in the history of whale shark tagging anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, it seems that he broke his depth gauge on that record dive – so while he is still sending us great position and temperature data, we are not able to see his depths anymore! The limits of technology unfortunately – the tags were only designed to withstand 1800m pressure – which was thought to be deeper than any whale sharks would go. Moby proved that wrong! Note that we also found Moby this year in October – and Abam managed to catch him and download his tag and then redeploy. Another beautiful data set!!
Moby has come home to Kwatisore. After an epic, nearly 5000km journey that took him up to Yap and the Mariana Trench and then across the birds head to Raja (hitting Misool), he returned to Kwatisore and is also hanging out with Wally and Yalgal. Along his trip he managed to bust his depth gauge – after recording a dive to 1856m, his depth gauge packed it in and so we can’t see his depth any more. Fortunately we can still see his position, and if he stays in Kwatisore, we hope during this year’s True North cruises to be able to catch him and recover his old tag and replace it with a shiny new one with functional depth sensor. Stay tuned!
Moby has now even further smashed his previous depth record of 1416m – diving to 1856m in the past few months!!! We thought this must surely be a world record, but Megan Meyers (University of Auckland Master’s student who is now analysing all of this data for her thesis) informs me there is a recent paper published at the end of last year from the Caribbean that records a 1928m dive by a larger whale shark there. Nonetheless, this appears to be the second deepest dive ever recorded for a whale shark – perhaps Moby will surpass the 2000m mark this year…Note that Moby’s horizontal movements have been every bit as impressive as his vertical ones – he shot out to Yap and over the southern Mariana Trench before returning to the northern Bird’s Head – now just west of Manokwari and apparently on his way back to Cendrawasih. His journey from Kwatisore has surpassed 4000km to date!
Speaking of deep, Moby is proving himself worthy of his namesake – SMASHING the previous depth record we had with a dive to 1416m!!! I honestly didn’t even think you could reach that depth in Cendrawasih, but he’s done it! I need to do a bit of snooping around in the literature to find out if any other satellite tags around the world have recorded this depth for whale sharks – either way, very impressive! For the past few months Moby’s been staying away from the bagans of Kwatisore – he’s been a bit offshore in the eastern/central part of the bay (apparently enjoying his deep diving and perhaps munching on deep plankton).
Some interesting facts on the whale shark.