New Caledonia
Activity Report from New Caledonia Vol.01 (23/03/2018)
from Mael Imirizaldu (CI New Caledonia)

Great discoveries of Manta!

“Great discoveries of Manta!”

Tagging Manta

The last few months of the project were very exciting: Our team started analyzing our Tags data and did some great discoveries on dive behaviors as well as connectivity between different sites of New-Caledonia. We had the chance to work with Shawn Heinrichs, an Emy Award winner and conservation photographer that will help us produce an exciting movie project on nature-culture connection existing in NC with a special focus on Manta rays. This film will be projected in several events around NC in 2018. Finally, our PhD student, Hugo Lassauce will soon to be on track for the first PhD on Manta rays of New-Caledonia. It will be a joint collaboration between University of New-Caledonia and University of Queensland.

Last 3 month activities :
Manta Movements:

While some manta rays preferred to stay close to the channels where they find food and cleaning stations most of their time, others traveled greater distances with some movements that we can characterize in two types :
1.Excursions with return to initial site: up to 174km off the blue ocean !
2.Relocations: Sometime tenth of kilometers away from the origin tagging location
Data from the tags confirmed the trend that manta rays dive regularly deep (between 200-400 meters with one of our Manta breaking a World record with 672m). The reason for these deep dives is yet to be unfold.

Video filming by Shawn Heinrichs
Movie Production

In October, we had the great privilege to work with the Emmy-award winner Shawn Heinrichs on the production of a short film that will follow Mantas and showcase the nature-culture connection we have in New-Caledonia. Big Highlights: we witnessed and capture on video, a Manta-train, typical mating behavior were Males race behind a mature female to be the chosen one. The film will feature incredible underwater footages on Red Cam 8K, scenes of local livelihoods and great interviews. The 10min film will be released in May 2018.

From left; Mael Imirizaldu, Hugo Lassauce. The right; Shawn Heinrich
Hugo Lassauce

In December, our Hugo was granted with the Southern Province Scholarship grant which in addition to the SATO YAMA UMI grant will support our work for the next three years. The thesis “Spatial Ecology and Population Characteristics of Manta Rays around NC” will officially starts in February 2018 with the University of New-Caledonia and University of Queensland.

Next 3 month activities

Our next plans ahead will be to produce our 2nd Newscast report, expand our photo-id contributors network, engage genetic sampling operations, fundraise for additional satellite tags and further engage with communities and dive-operators.

Hugo will be finalizing its Thesis project while planning some fieldwork with our partners from the aquarium. On the ground we will further engage with local institutions to get all the legal authorizations for genetic and tagging all around NC. Meeting with customary authorities from the District of Touho will be planned to seek access to a site that is renowned for it’s Manta.

Our team will work with the production team on translating all the interviews and developing the story-telling for the movie. Discussions will be engaged with other partners to submit the movies at various public event including the underwater film festival (2nd quarter 2018).