Posts Tagged ‘Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme’

Best Shark Week Finale – Volunteer for Sharks

shark turning in shallow dappled waterWe’re coming into the home stretch of Discovery Network’s Shark Week, that ratings bonanza that strikes gold in the channels’s viewership numbers and strikes fear in the hearts of some swimmers (though we know you are waaaayyyy more likely to die of the flu or crossing the street than of ever having a dangerous encounter with a shark). Let’s face it, if they wanted to, they could snack on us quite a bit, but they are absolutely human averse. They could never really even the stakes, however, considering  the millions of sharks we slaughter every year for their fins and cartilage—often unnecessarily cruelly.

so let’s look at some ways to counter the Da-Dum, Da-Dum Jaws soundtrack that thunders in your head every time you dip a toe in the surf (or jump in a pool or fill your bathtub). Volunteering with this world’s amazing shark populations is a great way to counter the press-inflated stories about shark attacks and understand these magnificent creatures. I’ve been lucky enough to have experiences with different sharks, from Great Whites to Whale Sharks to nurse, black-tip reef, and others…and look forward to many more. Sharks rock!

Enkosini Eco Experience in Gaansbai, South Africa, as well as White Shark Projects (who I dove with, in that same shark-heavy zone of South Africa near Gaansbai, known as “Shark Alley”) are eco-focused, environmental leaders, and have lots of openings for dedicated volunteers.

I’ve had the memory-of-a-lifetime experience of being in the water with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme and can’t recommend volunteering with these folks enough. Science rules the excursions, but the pure joy of encountering such grace will be what you carry with you long after you get home (see previous blog posting here).

I’m a big fan of Earthwatch, and find myself extraordinarily intrigued by their shark study volunteer expedition in Belize.

Frontier Gap has a shark conservation volunteer program in Fiji, helping research species and increase international awareness and understanding.

How about a volunteer gig at the Bimini SharkLab – it’s a biological field station always looking for dedicated volunteers.

This is just a small sampling of shark volunteer options around the oceans of the world…dive in and find one for your next vacation. Tell Ian Ziering and Tara Reid we’ll meet them there.

Gearing Up For Shark Week: Shark Volunteering

Photo: “Ayesha” Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme

This Sunday begins Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, an annual broadcast horror fest programming block that has become huge over the past 25 years…so let’s look at some ways to counter the Da-Dum, Da-Dum Jaws soundtrack that thunders in your head every time you dip a toe in the surf (or jump in a pool or fill your bathtub). Volunteering with this world’s amazing shark populations is a great way to counter the press-inflated stories about shark attacks and understand these magnificent creatures. I’ve been lucky enough to have experiences with different sharks, from Great Whites to Whale Sharks to nurse, black-tip reef, and others…and look forward to many more.

Enkosini Eco Experience in Gaansbai, South Africa, as well as White Shark Projects (who I dove with, in that same shark-heavy zone of South Africa) are eco-focused, environmental leaders, and have lots of openings for dedicated volunteers.

Ecuador-based Eco Volunteer UP has shark research volunteer opportunities, helping research shark populations near artisanal fishing port village, Puerto Lopez, on Ecuador’s coast.

I’ve had the memory-of-a-lifetime experience of being in the water with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme and can’t recommend volunteering with these folks enough. Science rules the excursions, but the pure joy of encountering such grace will be what you carry with you long after you get home (see previous blog posting here).

I’m a big fan of Earthwatch, and find myself extraordinarily intrigued by their shark study volunteer expedition in Belize.

This is just a small sampling of shark volunteer options around the oceans of the world…dive in and find one for your next trip (after you’ve obsessed about Shark Week almost as much as you did the Olympics).

CHANGERS PROFILE-Adam Harman: MALDIVES WHALE SHARK RESEARCH PROGRAMME

If you know me and have been anywhere around me or this blog since I returned from my recent trip to the Maldives, you know (I’ve probably told you breathlessly over and over) that I had the astounding experience of swimming with a whale shark. (We’ve since deduced that it was likely “Ayesha” one of only four known females in the Maldivian region where we were–a juvenile female about 6 meters/18 feet long). I had looked into this program of researchers and advocates in the Maldives and the work they were doing with Whale Sharks before I went, and since getting home have exchanged a bunch of emails with Adam Harman at the organization. I think their work is not only fascinating, it is life changing, not only for the whale sharks, but for everyone involved. Dedicating yourself to saving life is huge.

ADAM HARMAN  is the Director/Trustee of the MALDIVES WHALE SHARK RESEARCH PROGRAMME Ltd (Registered Charity Number 1130369).

The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) exists to conduct whale shark research projects and foster community focused conservation initiatives in the Maldives.

Adam has volunteered his time on a variety of projects around the globe over the last 16 years – from Villa Tunari’s animal sanctuary in Bolivia to ‘self build’ projects and the building of schools in Australia, Asia, and the UK – at the same time as gaining a wealth of business knowledge from the running of a successful business since 1997.

Growing up on Australia’s west coast, the Ocean has had a strong hold over Adam’s life. He became involved in the MWSRP in April 2008 and quickly realized it was his calling.

Adam’s principal interest in developing the MWSRP is to protect and conserve the whale shark and its habitat while ensuring the local community benefit from their natural resources through more than mere resort employment.

His interest as a field researcher is in answering the many whale shark unknowns – discovering and understanding what habitats are important to these magnificent animals, if they are the migratory species they were once thought to be, how they interact with other populations and species, and how they respond to short and long term natural and anthropogenic changes in those key habitats.

The MWSRP’s overall scientific objectives are to contribute findings to scientific literature and to education, conservation, and management authorities to promote science-based conservation of ocean life. Continue reading

Whale Sharks

whalesharkOne of the most regal creatures I’ve had the great good fortune to be near is a whale shark. Yesterday was a day of snorkeling in the Maldives on a whale shark excursion. The whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean–up to 60 feet long–and they are gentle vegetarians, straining massive amounts of water through their gill system for plankton.

The Maldives is one of the rare areas on the planet with a year round population of whale sharks–most migrate great distances and are constantly on the move. Because of this, the area is also one of the premier research regions for the “threatened” (but not yet officially endangered) species. The only real predators they have are, of course, us. People kill them and lop off the dorsal fins for Chinese shark fin soup. They are so mysterious, and so rarely studied at length, very little is known about their mating habits, reproduction, and behavior except when they are in close proximity to humans (and therefore most vulnerable).

The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) is a charitable organization here in the Maldives, based out of the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. The Conrad resort sponsors the research as well as the researchers, providing housing and board at the resort, a research vessel, and logistical support (plus access to the resort amenities) for two shifts of scientists each year: 3 months in the spring and 2 months in the winter. Visitors to the region can volunteer with the research team (especially helpful are certified scuba divers) as they advance the science and conservation efforts. Others can volunteer for programs that inspire greater understanding and protection efforts among the local Maldivian community. The South Ari Atoll, where the research is carried out, is also now the Maldives’ largest Marine Protected Area (also realized with the Conrad resort’s support).

If you’re not hopping on over to the Maldives any time soon (it’s a giant hop, I assure you), you can donate here. The juvenile female we swam with yesterday was only about 18 feet long–and I dreamt about her all last night, and can almost guarantee I’ll do so again tonight. Trust me–it will not be OK if the whale sharks degrade further and get placed onto the endangered species list. We simply cannot allow that to happen.