Ocean News

The girls are back in town

27th April 2009

So, I’m now back at our base in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, and have been office bound for a while. Spending weeks catching up on a back log of e-mails, tape logging, and receipts from our Bahamian adventures is the penance you pay for getting to go to these amazing locations in the first place. After two weeks of this boring stuff I decided enough was enough and I had to get back out on the water.

At this time year the Red Sea comes alive (even more so than usual!). We see blooms of moon jellyfish, and are most likely to see whale sharks at this time of year. We also see much higher numbers of reef and pelagic sharks now, including scalloped hammerheads, silvertips, gray reef, and last but by no means least, silky sharks.

We see unusually arge numbers of silky sharks here, the majority of the sharks we see are female (95%), and we’ve even been fortunate enough to witness and film mating. Getting to know silky sharks this well is an unusual priviledge, there aren’t many places in the world where you can regularly and reliably dive with them.

SOSF has been researching silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) for a number of years. Historically, silky sharks were one of the most abundant shark species in the oceans, dominating the pelagic zone alongside oceanic whitetips (Carcharhinus longimanus). Now however, it’s estimated that silky populations have declined by over 90% due to commercial fisheries. The research SOSF is carrying out here is attempting to unravel some of the mysteries of the silky shark. We don’t know where they give birth, where they hunt, if they migrate to other areas of the Red Sea, or out of the Red sea altogether for that matter. This is the case with many species of shark, we just know so little about them, and effectively tracking them is impossible without expensive tagging equipment.

Without knowing more about their behaviour and ecology, its difficult to initiate conservation measures that are essential if silky sharks are to continue their important ecological role in the oceans.

We spent a day out at one of our offshore dive sites, photographing and attempting to tag a couple of the animals. The image to the right may look as if the shark is in a lot of discomfort and distress, but I assure, the sharks are fine once released, and soon swim back up to interact with us once more.

For now I’m office bound again, but I’ll get out and see our girls again, once the great indoors gets too much.