Project Update – Photo identification, satellite tagging,
Genetic and a Hollywood award winning movie,
what else to better finish year 2018!
The last quarter of 2018 was dedicated to field operations and communication. As a continuation of the previous quarter, Hugo our PhD student spent a total of 35 days at sea near Noumea and Touho and came back with multiple photo ID, genetic samples and 3 new mantas were tagged.
The Manta Initiative project has known huge communication boosts thanks to the movie “Mother of Coral Sea” that has had success way beyond the Asia Pacific region… And it does not stay there….
Last 3-month activities:
It’s summer time here in New Caledonia and what is best than going for a swim with mantas to cool down. With the temperature rising and approaching the 30°C many Caledonians go out at sea and if they are lucky enough, meet mantas. Thanks to the communication effort that has been led since the begging of the project, people are now aware that they can contribute by taking pictures of Manta’s belly for identification and sharing them on our Facebook page. By doing so, you can learn a lot on the ray’s movements, if it has been encountered before, and if not, you might the chance to name it yourself!!!
As the Manta initiative Facebook page is growing viral, the number of photo ID is constantly rising. Since our last update, only 6 new Manta individuals where identified out of the 86 photo ID messages sent by followers! This bringing the total to 311 known individuals around New-Caledonia. This may seem very little but there is nothing to worry about. This is explained by the fact that total population number of mantas is slowly being reached in some pilot sites like Touho and Noumea. But we are not there yet so please keep on contributing to the photo ID catalogue.
Feel free to visit our Facebook page if you want to know more about our Manta and if you have the chance to dive around NC and make some pictures of Manta, please post it!
Hugo with the teams from University of New-Caledonia, Aquarium des Lagon and internship volunteer went on the field and came back with a lot of new ID’s!
During the month of October our PhD student Hugo was assisted by a month internship volunteer Taiki Kido from Japan. Taiki was of great support on field work as he participated in photo identification and genetic sampling. Taiki was also of great help on fostering the partnership between Alize Diving club and the initiative. He also contributed the translation into Japanese of the code of conduct to practice while diving with Mantas.
team briefing before field work
In early November a field mission was set up in Touho to continue scientific data collection. Touho turns out to be an important cleaning station for the Mantas and so makes it a great place to do photo ID, satellite tagging and genetic sampling since the mantas peacefully cruse around and are easily approached.
Mayol2 beeing tagged
It is in this context that a team was setup and equipped with a boat, a couple of GoPro cameras, a drone and some diving gears. The chase was open!
The team was very lucky and thanks to good sea conditions was able to spot them on many occasions offering great opportunities for our operations (Satellite tagging, photo-ID and genetic sampling). Yet, when the Manta are spotted, staying in the visibility range, swimming sometimes against strong current and getting close enough to the animal so we can work is a real challenge as you can imagine!
Still the mission turned out to be a real success with 3 new mantas identified, satellite tagged and genetically sampled!
Sex: Mature Female
Observation: Left pectoral fin damaged.
Sex: Mature Female
Observation: Shark bit at the end of the tail
Sex: Mature Male
Observation: no scares
This field trip had a very special feeling since it was the last one for Maël Imirizaldu who was New Caledonia’s CI marine officer for the last 5 years and who has done a lot and was very dedicated to the Manta Initiative project. On behalf of the Manta Initiative Project, and as his successor, I truly wish Maël all the best for his upcoming adventures.
We are very proud and delighted to announce that our movie “New-Caledonia, Mother of Coral sea”(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EYOwk6SjF8&t=92s) was rewarded twice at Hollywood’s Independent Short Awards in Los Angeles. The movie won silver award for best documentary (https://independentshortsawards.com/silver-awards-november-2018/) and was distinguished by the honourable mentions for best cinematography. (https://independentshortsawards.com/honorable-mentions-november-2018/ )
Our Facebook page is growing in number and we just reached 483 followers. Some of them are great contributors to the project, sharing their own underwater or drone footages of Manta all around NC making our work progress very well. https://www.facebook.com/initiativemantaNC/
The Manta Initiative Project also appeared in several Caledonian medias, such as the N°52 bulletin of Geomatics and in October’s News Letter of La Maison du Lagon. Special thanks to both.
Our Newscast report for the second half of 2018 was finalized in both French and English version so a greater public can learn more about Manta from NC. The document was shared amongst 150 contacts, including dive operators, partners, underwater photography groups and managers.
Next 3-month activities
For the next 3 months, our team will keep concentrating on the fieldwork with additional operations in Noumea, Touho, Ouvea. For his PhD, Hugo needs at least 20 genetic samples per site so the chase for more Manta will continue.
Furthermore, satellite tagging will continue to be deployed on mantas to learn more about their daily movements and deep dives, so exciting!
The partnership for the genetic analysis with the University of Auckland in on good tracks.
Finally, in March, Hugo will attend the very first Latin American Conference on Sharks, Rays and Chimaeras in Playa del Carmen in Mexico.
Thanks for your support.