First mission to satellite tag Whale Sharks on the Great Barrier Reef



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The Biopixel Oceans Foundation lead an expedition to tag Whale Sharks on the GBR. Image: Supplied.

The Biopixel Oceans Foundation has returned from successfully undertaking the first expedition to locate and satellite tag Whale Sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

Whale Shark sightings in the Great Barrier Reef are rare and sporadic so a combination of aircraft and drones were used to find them so they could be tagged from the research vessel ARGO.

Expedition leader Dr Adam Barnett used historic observations from fishing and diving operators along with other biological and physical information to focus this first dedicated expedition on the area of Wreck Bay in the far north of the Great Barrier Reef.

‘While we wouldn’t go as far to call it an aggregation, we were excited to see a number of sharks on this expedition,” Dr Barnett said.

“Now tagged we hope that these animals will teach us about potential Whale Shark hotspots off the east coast of Australia.”

A collaborative team of researchers joined the expedition from Biopixel Oceans Foundation, James Cook University, University of Queensland and Ecocean.

During the expedition at least 8 sharks, possibly 13 were seen from aerial surveys.

Over a three-day period, the team managed to snorkel with and satellite tag four animals. The tags were attached by a clamp, which is designed to eventually, detach.

The Whale Sharks can be followed live via satellite through the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef tracking page.

Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef CEO, Andy Ridley, said the tracking page is part of an ongoing effort to bring the Reef to life for people all over the world.

“Reef Tracks allows people to connect with the amazing species that call the Reef home,” Mr Ridley said.

To help raise awareness of their Whale Shark research in the Coral Sea, Biopixel Oceans Foundation is running a competition with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef to name one of the tagged whale sharks.

By entering, ocean lovers will be in with a chance of having a Whale Shark named after them, which can then be tracked by the public on the Reef Tracks site.

Visit Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef's Facebook page to learn more. Entries close midnight Friday 6 December.

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