May/June Program Week 3

This week was spent collecting fisheries data at Guinjata and Paindane, conducting humpback whale surveys, and carrying out coral reef surveys. Evenings were spent logging the data onto spreadsheets.

Monday and Friday was spent collecting fish length data from local fisherman, along with photographic evidence of the fish next to a scale, for ID purposes. It is a 45min walk to get there from where we are staying and we stayed on site 7am-4pm, which is a long day in the sun. Luckily we took a tent with us that provided us with some much needed shade. However, the wind blew our tent ontop of us in Friday which made life interesting!

Tuesday and Wednesday we were based in Guinjata bay collecting fisheries data there 7am-4pm. At both fisheries sites, whilst waiting for fishermen to return to shore with their catch, we did beach cleans to maintain the LTO pledge to collect 2kg of ocean trash per item of merchandise sold. In the evenings we identified the fish species caught and entered this information into the spreadsheet along with size, location of the catch, and method of catch.

At the end of last week two new dive instructors arrived at the dive centre LTO is partnered with. After a few days of getting to know them, they joined us diving on Thursday where we conducted 2 coral reef surveys, using reef life methodology, on two separate dives. The new instructors are going to be a great asset to LTO and the dive centre over the coming months. 2 volunteers were diving, one person lay out the transect while the other recorded the compass bearing of the transect. Then one person held the GoPro and did all the filming while the other held the quadrat in place- a job that requires good  buoyancy. After the first few attempts were thwarted with flailing limbs due to failed attempts at neutral buoyancy, we got there in the end and we will improve with practice.

The third volunteer was snorkelling to record the GPS location of the start of the transect. Then their help with the coral reef survey was no longer required so this person climbed back aboard the boat and conducted a whale survey. Whale surveys were also conducted on days when we were conducting fisheries research at guinjata. Two people were at fisheries while the others were on the boat conducting a whale surveys, then we rotated for the next whale survey. The hydrophone was deployed by one person while a visual survey was conducted by the other. One humpback whale was spotted but they’re moving in in larger numbers now!

Hopefully more whales will be spotted in the surveys next week! This weekend we are going souvenir shopping and surfing. We hope everyone has a whale-tastic weekend!

Happy Father’s Day for Sunday!

Until next time.

Saskia, Nikki and Ellie

World Sea Turtle Day! Sea turtles in Mozambique: distribution and nesting ecology

June 16th 2018 is World Sea Turtle Day. Sea turtles are among the most majestic and charismatic marine animals and Love The Oceans doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate these beautiful creatures! In recognition of these awesome animals, this blog will be about sea turtles in Mozambique, their nesting ecology and LTO efforts to minimise disturbance.

Seven species of marine turtles exist around the globe. They are all grouped in the superfamily Chelonioidae. Six species, the Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Kemp’s Ridley and Flatback turtle, belong to the family of Cheloniidae. The Leatherback turtle belongs to another family, the Dermochelyidae, of which it is the only living representative.

An overview of marine turtles and their conservation status:

  1. Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) –          Vulnerable
  2. Green (Chelonia mydas) –          Endangered
  3. Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) –          Critically Endangered
  4. Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) –          Vulnerable
  5. Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) –          Critically Endangered
  6. Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) –          Vulnerable
  7. Flatback (Natator depressus) –          Data Deficient
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Identification Key of the 6 most common sea turtles, 5 of which occur in Mozambique

 

Five species of turtles occur along the coast of Mozambique. Only the Kemp’s Ridley (restricted to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast of the USA) and the Flatback (restricted to the tropical coastal waters of Australia) cannot be found in Mozambique waters. Two species even have a ‘local’ conservation status that is different from the global one. The South-West Indian Ocean subpopulation of Loggerheads is considered Near Threatened, a more favourable status compared to its global one, while the subpopulation of Leatherbacks is Critically Endangered in the South-West Indian Ocean.

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Spatial variation in nesting behaviour of turtles along the coast of Mozambique

All five species nest along the coast of Mozambique, but there is spatial variation in nesting behaviour, with certain areas favoured by certain species. Southern Mozambique is the preferred nesting area for Loggerheads and Leatherbacks. Guinjata Bay, the area where LTO operates, lies central in the depicted Loggerhead nesting range and close to the Northern limit of Leatherback nesting. Given the unfavourable conservation status of Leatherbacks in the area and their nesting range, it is, although possible, rather unlikely that nesting females or hatchlings will be observed in Guinjata Bay.

Adult turtles spend most of their lives in their foraging ground, an area usually separated and often miles away from mating and nesting areas. During the reproductive season, adult turtles travel to the nesting beach and both males and females can be found in the vicinity of this beach. Mating takes place along the migration route at courtship stations and in the area surrounding the nesting beach. Females usually nest more than once per reproductive season, but seldom in consecutive years.

Females construct their nest on a dry part of the beach, initially digging a body pit with her front flippers. Then, the rear flippers are used to dig the egg chamber. When the egg chamber is dug, the female is already in position and starts laying eggs. After depositing the eggs, the turtle again uses her rear flippers to cover the egg chamber after which she uses her front flippers to cover the body pit again and doing so disguising the nest.

Although the actual nesting is a similar event for each species of turtle, differences exist between species regarding egg size, clutch size, preferred beach type, incubation period, etc.  Once a female turtle has laid a clutch of eggs, she leaves the beach and the eggs remain unprotected. There is also no maternal care for the hatchlings. Many natural factors threaten the survival of the incubating nest and hatchlings such as beach erosion, storm and tidal inundation and native predators. Devastating natural impacts are uncommon and not always predictable. However, there is a continuous threat of anthropogenic impacts on nesting beaches, nests and hatchlings that threaten the survival of all seven species of sea turtles around the world. Shore development, artificial lighting, beachfront structures, vehicle and foot traffic, sand compaction and pollution are all factors degrading nesting habitats globally. Nests and hatchlings are threatened by persistent poaching, predation by feral animals and pets, exotic pests, reduced chemical and physical sand quality for embryonic development, beach lighting and obstruction of hatchlings’ path towards the sea. 

Even in rural areas such as Guinjata Bay there are threats to nesting turtles and hatchlings. LTO aims to minimise disturbance to turtles in Guinjata Bay by setting up guidelines for volunteers as well as running workshops with the local communities. Protocols for beach patrols during nesting season have been developed and our programs encompass these. The main goal is to secure the survival of turtles and hatchlings, while at the same time, collecting valuable baseline data on turtle presence, nesting and hatchlings in Guinjata Bay. Apart from the LTO’s general Don’t Touch, Don’t Tease, don’t Take policy with respect to any marine life, a few important guidelines have been developed to reduce disturbance to sea turtles, especially during nesting season. These guidelines are communicated to all our volunteers at the start of every program and LTO also spreads the word in the local community through presentations and posters. Some of the guidelines:

  • Reduce number of outdoor lamps
  • Shield or redirect outdoor lamps to reduce direct light on beach
  • Close curtains or blindings during nesting season
  • Use red light as much as possible
  • Do regular beach cleans, especially bigger pieces of thrash can obstruct path of nesting females or hatchlings
  • Don’t leave sun beds, chairs, tables etc out on the beach at night
  • No driving on the beach, ESPECIALLY at night
  • No fires on the beach during nesting season
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LTO Turtle Guidelines

Our July program is starting soon and even though nesting season is over, we will hopefully observe many turtles on our coral reef survey dives. We’ll keep you posted on our efforts and turtle encounters! Stay tuned and watch this space!

try to be like a turtle, at ease in your own shell

 

May/June Program Week 2

This week was spent doing community outreach by painting and teaching at two local schools. We were excited to meet the children and pass on our marine biology knowledge, and who knows, perhaps we have inspired some to become marine biologists themselves! Monday to Wednesday were spent at one school and the last two days of the week were spent at the other. At the start of the first lesson we recapped what the March volunteers covered by testing the children’s knowledge on the names of the continents and oceans. Then, over the course of the subsequent lessons, we proceeded with new knowledge on whales and dolphins, with focus on explaining the differences between mammals and fish, which species live around Mozambique, and proceeded to go into detail about their behaviours, migrations, diet, communication, and social structure.
Painting, however, was constrained due to poor weather. Sporadic rain and variable winds graced us with their presence Monday through till Thursday. Therefore, on Monday and Tuesday we painted the inside walls of the principal’s office grey- not very exciting but the principal seemed pleased, so it was worth it. Wednesday lulled us into a false sense of security; there was a short rain shower early in the morning but then the sky brightened up, so we decided to paint a marine themed mural on the outside of the principal’s office. We chose to paint a turtle and a tiger shark on a blue ocean background as these are common megafauna seen around Mozambique. Whist we were painting the ocean the heavens opened and heavy rain made the paint run, so now the tiger shark has blue stripes!
At the second school we decided to paint an ocean trash mural explaining how long different types of trash that typically end up in the ocean take to degrade. Thursday was wet and gloomy, so we were strategic about our painting by placing the mural on the principal’s outside walls, which were mostly under a porch, thus protected from the rain. Friday’s weather was sunny and hot allowing us to leave our raincoats inside and finish the mural on an exposed wall.
Additionally, a fishing competition was held this week so after school we attended to film the weigh-in. Tuesday and Wednesday were deemed blow-outs so no competitor went out onto the ocean- I’m sure the fish were glad for the break! Evenings were spend logging the data: fish species, weight, total length, forked length, and pre-caudal length for the LTO fisheries data set.
No sign of humpback whales yet but we hope the cold weather front experienced this week will be the temperature drop they need to draw them to Mozambique.
That’s all until next week folks. Wishing everyone a Whale of a Time this weekend.
Saskia, Ellie and Nikki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Oceans Day: Dive In!

Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of World Oceans Day 2018, I introduce our fourteenth blog in this marine series:

World Oceans Day: Dive In!

It’s official – it’s the best day of the year; World Oceans Day! So in honour of our favourite day, we want to give you a list of our favourite Ocean-related things, all ready to start using today:

The best marine conservation documentaries

The list of brilliant marine conservation documentaries is virtually endless, so we’ve decided to pick 3 of the documentaries we think everyone should watch:

Blue Planet I and II

When it comes to marine documentaries Blue Planet is an obvious first and all-time favourite. The first ‘season’, The Blue Planet, is an award-winning introduction to our oceans: In 8 episodes Sir David Attenborough (yet another reason to love the series!) narrates us through every marine environment, covering everything from unexplored deep oceans, to sunny coral reefs and life under the ice at the poles. ‘Season’ two, Blue Planet II, revisits the environments from the first season, but this time critically examining anthropogenic activities and the impact we have on the oceans.

BBC Shark

THE shark documentary. There is no shortage of documentaries describing hunting behaviour in sharks and, unfortunately, depicting sharks as ruthless, man-eating killers, but very few contain any information about other aspects of the lives of our sharky friends. BBC has done a wonderful job of filming the less-documented aspects, making it an absolute must-see: In three episodes the series covers the hunting behaviour and senses that make sharks the phenomenal predators we know them as, the complex social interactions and secret reproductive behaviour, and finally the multiple threats sharks face.

Mission Blue

Perhaps you already know that Mission Blue is a global collation of researchers, influencers and advocates working to promote awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas (Hope Spots), otherwise we suggest watching this documentary as your introduction.
Mission Blue’s founder Dr Sylvia Earle is about as famous as marine biologists come: First female chief scientist at NOAA became famous for her underwater and deep ocean research, and not least for daring to present the inconvenient truth about the state of our oceans.
The coastline where Love The Oceans operates has recently been nominated as a Hope Spot through the Mission Blue Foundation.

The best marine conservation initiatives and campaigns (apart from Love The Oceans 😉 )

#StopSucking For A Strawless Ocean

Your straw is an unnecessary accessory to our drink, with lethal effects on wildlife and a terrible ecological footprint. So #StopSucking and ditch the straw today – it’s the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to make an instant difference. All you have to do is say: ‘No straw, please’. And if you really need your straw there are lots of great, sustainable alternatives: re-useable straws made of glass or stainless steel, or even single-use straws made of paper, bamboo or edible materials.

Make your social media pledge here.

#take3forthesea

The thing about good intentions is, they have a way of staying just that … intentions without any action. And although we would all love to make a difference, taking a whole day out of your calendar to do a beach clean-up might be a bit much for some of us. So here it is: Next time you go for a walk, pick up three pieces of trash. Just three. You can manage that. And yes – those three pieces do make a difference.

Simple as can be: Pick it up. Bin it.

Project Aware: Dive Against Debris

If you love the oceans and you’re a diver, Dive Against Debrisshould be right up your alley. You can either sign up for one of Project Aware’s events or you can simply pick up debris if and when you come across it on your dives (hopefully, you already do this).
Start by downloading the Dive Against Debris app: It helps you log the debris you collect, give you access to survey toolkits and helps you find the nearest event – all the best dive conservation tools, right in your pocket!

The best social media accounts

Facebook can be a lot more than cat-videos, memes and reminders about friends’ birthdays. Be smart about your social media use and turn your news feed into an actual newsfeed by following the right people and organisations. There is a virtually endless selection of great organisations and researchers to follow so we have selected the three funniest, smartest and sharkiest (apart from @lovetheoceans, obviously 😉 ):

Thomas Peschak

Thomas is a National Geographic photographer and has published quite a few awe-inspiring marine photography books (we definitely recommend taking a look at these! His social media accounts are great at quick fun facts about a lot of different areas in the marine world with some hilarious jokes thrown in. He’s also a founding director of the Manta Trust and senior fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers! Thomas has actually donated a few of his photography books to Love The Oceans to aid our teaching efforts in our local schools which went down a storm with the kids. We particularly love his book Sharks and People. You can follow him on facebook here.

Simon J Pierce

Where it comes to marine puns whale shark researcher and underwater photographer Simon J Pierce has got to be one of the best. Simon manages to deliver a delicate and entertaining mixture of amazing underwater photos, shark research news and excellent marine-related jokes. He’s a marine conservation biologist and underwater photographer. You can follow him on facebook here.

 

The Physics Girl

Whilst not directly related to marine biology (clearly indicated by the name!) Physics Girl is a great informative and funny social media account to follow! Dianna Cowern is the creater of Physics Girl and Sophie Chen the writer. Both women are heavily involved in STEM and promoting science, making it more accessible to the public. Both studied physics at University, Dianna worked at UCSD as a Science Outreach Coordinator and Sophia works as a freelance Science Writer in Arizona. They have a website and a blog you can follow but also have facebook and twitter streams. You can follow their facebook here.

 

Hopefully you’ll find these links and info as useful as our staff and volunteers have! Love The Oceans also runs it’s own blog (which you are looking at already if you’re reading this!) which is manned by our marine biologists and covers a huge range of content! We post this on our social media platforms too and you can follow our Instagram and twitter on the handle @lovetheoceans and our facebook on @lovetheoceansorganisaton. For June we’re also running an oceans cleanup campaign with a swimsuit company called Deakin and Blue. For every swimsuit sold we remove 2kg of trash from the beaches and oceans. All of Deakin and Blue’s suits are made of recycled and regenerated materials so you can treat yourself to a new cossie whilst saving the ocean at the same time! Get your swim suit here.

We hope your World Oceans Day 2018 is awesome and enjoy it!! The world is covered in over 70% water after all….

Simple Ocean National Maritime Day Social Media Graphic

World Environment Day: Beat Plastic Pollution, if you can’t reuse it, refuse it

Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of World Environment Day 2018, I introduce our thirteenth blog in this marine series:

World Environment Day: Beat Plastic Pollution, if you can’t reuse it, refuse it

5thof June 2018 is World Environment Day, a day used annually to raise awareness of the plight of our environment. This year, the theme for World Environment Day is Beat Plastic Pollution: If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.

It’s no secret that single use plastic is one of the biggest environmental problems our world faces. Although it’s not the only one, it’s one of the most evident from day to day life. You spot discarded food wrappers and water bottles from the beaches to the streets and, as many of you know, in our oceans too.

Plastic-Ocean-Infographic
Source: Ocean Conservancy

It’s estimated that by 2050 there’ll be more plastic in our oceans (by weight) than fish, which is quite a scary thought considering 30 countries depend on fish as a primary protein source. In some areas of the ocean there’s more than 60x as much plastic as phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are tiny plants living in the water column that photosynthesise and produce oxygen. They produce the oxygen for around 1 in 5 breaths we breath – 60x as much plastic as these important animals? That’s terrifying!

This is all very doom and gloom. Is it too late? Who knows. Different types of plastic break up at different rates and we don’t actually know how much is out there. It’s important to note that plastic doesn’t break down, it breaks up– it never fully disappears even down to the molecular level. There’s fantastic campaigns like Nix the Six by 5 Gyres that help raise awareness of the problem of single use plastics. The number that is in the middle of the arrows on the bottom of your plastic bottle? That tells you the type of plastic it is. The 6 in the middle is where Nix the Six comes in. 6 is polystyrene, a product made from styrene and benzene, two petroleum based products. Not only is styrene now classed as probably carcinogenic (cancer causing) for humans by the International Agency For Research on Cancer (IARC) but polystyrene manufacturing has been ranked as the fifth worst industry in the world for hazardous waste creation. Polystyrene is difficult to recycle and even banned from some recycling plants because of contamination programs. Polystyrene is one of the most common forms of plastic pollution in the environment.

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Nix The Six: 5Gyres Campaign

 

Love The Oceans is based in Guinjata Bay, Mozambique. Whilst we pride ourselves on living in a pristine and awe-inspiring bay, we are not immune to the global problem of plastic pollution. Many remote places around the world have international trash washing up on their shores, and unfortunately many of these places are developing nations. Mozambique, for example, is situated on the edge of the Indian Ocean Garbage Patch. There are 5 large garbage patches in the world’s oceans and the Indian Ocean Garbage Patch is the 3rd largest at over 5 million km2. The patch is essentially a massive gyre of litter suspended in the water column and consists of an array of different waste: discarded fishing gear, plastics, chemical sludge and other debris. Whilst a lot of this trash is believed to come from developing nations, we (the UK) actually export a lot of our waste to these nations which then ends up in the ocean so a lot of it actually comes down to us in the UK changing our habits.

If trash goes into the water in Indonesia, it’ll take around 6 years to do a full circle in the ocean currents to get back to the starting point, and that’s if it doesn’t get stuck in the middle of the ocean where it could remain…indefinitely. Scary, right? Right.

We don’t know if we’re past the tipping point with plastic pollution as it’s really difficult to know just how much is in the environment at the moment. However, let’s curb our plastic addiction now and work towards a cleaner future! We have lots of blogs on reducingreusing and recycling your waste and how to live more sustainably, feel free to have a read. There’s also some pretty cool technology out there being designed to clean up the environment. After all, this is something that is much needed and our governments should really be investing more in.

Making smart choices when shopping is also important – make sure you source your clothes and food from shops that invest in green technology, speak openly about their environmental policies and actively reduce waste where they can. That’s why for the entire of June 2018 we’ve teamed up with Deakin and Blue, an awesome environmentally friendly swimsuit company. Deakin and Blue have committed to only working with environmentally and socially responsible suppliers and all their costumes are made of 100% recycled and regenerated consumer waste products, like discarded fishing nets – something very close to our hearts. They also manufacture their swimwear in a small London factory and produce in small production runs to minimise unwanted stock. In June 2018 to celebrate World Oceans Day, Love The Oceans has committed to removing 2kg of waste from the beaches and oceans for every Deakin and Blue swim suit bought so you can treat yourselves to a new cossie and know you’re saving marine life at the same time!

Get your Deakin and Blue Costume here and Happy World Environment Day!

Adventure Awaits iPhone Layout-2

Our Devotion to The Ocean – Deakin and Blue Guest Blog

It’s World Oceans Day on the 8thJune 2018 and this year we’re delighted to be teaming up with new sustainable and body positive swimwear brand Deakin and Blue to help reduce, remove & recycle additional waste from our oceans. For every Deakin and Blue swimsuit sold, we’ll be removing 2kg of trash from beaches – so you can buy a swimsuit safe in the knowledge that your purchase is an eco-conscious, planet friendly move.

But why Deakin and Blue? We were impressed when we first came across this sustainable and eco-friendly swimwear brand, with their swimsuits made from regenerated fishing nets, so we caught up with them to find out more about their brand and how they make their cossies.

Who is Deakin and Blue?

Deakin and Blue is a new sustainable and body positive swimwear brand. We make transformational swimwear that women feel incredible in – whether you’re sunbathing, swimming or anything in between.  500,000 women have given up swimming in the last ten years because of body image concerns: we’re on a mission to change that. However, we’re also on a mission to ensure that every business choice that we make has a positive social and environmental impact.

How is your swimwear sustainable?

To us, being sustainable is all about making high quality swimwear which has a positive environmental impact and which is made to last.

  • All of our swimwear is made from ECONYL® – a 100% regenerated nylon fibre which is made from used fishing nets and other nylon waste.
  • We manufacture our swimwear in a small London factory and we produce in small production runs to minimise unwanted stock.
  • All our suppliers, manufacturers and partners are OEKO-TEX® certified where applicable which means that they are environmentally and socially responsible – they pay fairly, use chemicals safely and minimise waste where possible.
  • We have sourced 100% reusable and recyclable packaging materials and have worked to remove unnecessary plastic from every stage of our processes, in order to avoid contributing additional plastic to our planet.
  • And finally we use fabrics which are twice as resistant to chlorine, sun cream and oil than standard Lycra® in order to ensure our swimsuits are high quality items made to last.

Can you tell us a bit more about ECONYL® and the regeneration process?

Absolutely. We work closely with the team at ECONYL® who use a four step process to rescue, regenerate, remake and reimagine waste as new products.

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RESCUE: In the first stage, the ECONYL® Regeneration System starts with rescuing waste, like fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic from landfills and oceans all over the world. That waste is then sorted and cleaned to recover all of the nylon possible.

REGENERATE:In the second stage a radical regeneration and purification process recycles the nylon waste right back to its original purity. That means ECONYL® regenerated nylon is exactly the same as virgin nylon.

REMAKE & REIMAGINE: At this point, ECONYL® regenerated nylon is processed into a yarn which we then use to create brand new products.

The incredible thing about the ECONYL® process is that the remade nylon has the potential to be recycled infinitely, without ever losing its quality. This paves the way for a circular economy where waste is never wasted and where trash can become treasure through a constant process of reuse and regeneration.

And so what more can we be doing this Ocean Day to be more environmentally conscious in our choices?

Firstly, we can all make a series of small changes to our every day lives which can contribute significantly to reducing the amount of waste we contribute to the planet. Easy things like saying no to a straw, using reusable water bottles and coffee cups and avoiding single use plastics like disposable razors and plastic toothbrushes all helps.

If you’re feeling like you want to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, you can do a #2minutebeachclean on your nearest coastline or street. By spending just two minutes picking up loose rubbish, you help to reduce the amount of waste that will find its way into our oceans and which might go on to harm our marine life.

And finally, shopping consciously is a great way to start! There are lots of brilliant brands like Deakin and Blue designing and manufacturing beautiful products which either use regenerated materials or which minimise their environmental impact. Look out for brands which talk openly about the materials they use, where they source them from and where their products are made. The great thing about buying from brands like these is that you can treat yourself to beautiful products (like a new cossie!) safe in the knowledge that your purchase is helping to save the planet!

BUY YOUR DEAKIN AND BLUE SWIM COSTUME NOW

May/June Program Week 1

On arriving in Guinjata bay we received an amazingly warm welcome from Francesca, Jay, Ronel and all the staff at the dive centre and resort. Our first week has consisted of lectures, our first practice dives and site visits to fisheries and the schools that we will be working in during our time here. We’ve also had a week to get to know each other, although with only three of us sharing a house that’s been a pretty quick and (so far) painless process!

Our lectures have introduced us to sampling methodologies and statistics we will be using here to conduct our research as well as an introduction to teaching and general issues faced in fieldwork for marine biology. The lectures have been fascinating and our frequent side-tracking even more so!

The First dives took place on the local reefs with Jay and Ronel where we were introduced to some of the wide array of marine life that populates this area. After our first practice coral reef survey, we attempted to analyse the footage, recording vertebrate and coral species abundance. With Saskia and Ellie aiming to complete their peak performance buoyancy courses this weekend, hopefully our future videos will contain more fish and less floundering flippers.

Our visit to the fisheries site was unfortunately uneventful, with a grand total of no fishermen returning to land whilst we waited. However, we got a good look at the site, had a relaxing morning on the beach and were very ready for our lunch and some shade.

Our first visit to the two local schools we will be teaching and painting at over the next few weeks was an immensely enjoyable experience, surrounded by enthusiastic and inquisitive children. Following on from this was the cultural tour where we spent time at a local’s house with his family and experienced local food.

Overall this week has been very informative and has introduced us very well to what this next few weeks will entail as well as the culture we will be living in. To our delight a very unexpected volunteer decided to join LTO’s program at the last minute. Weighing an incredible 3.5 kg and with the softest fur you could ever imagine, we’d like to introduce our newest arrival: Momo! She is a puppy that was found by the local fishermen a couple of days before we arrived in Inhambane that LTO has rescued.  She has made every single activity very eventful (mostly when she switches to demon mode and will not stay still). Her likes include: biting coconuts, bags, toes, ankles and stealing flip flops.

We are all looking forward to everything that we will get to learn and experience over the next four weeks and hope that the rest of our time doesn’t go as fast as this week has!

To Volunteer or Not to Volunteer? That is The Question…

Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of National Volunteering Week 2018, I introduce our twelfth blog in this marine series:

To Volunteer or Not to Volunteer? That is The Question…

There are a lot of big questions in this world. If you are a student or recent graduate in marine biology or conservation then whether or not to volunteer is probably one of them. So in honour of National Volunteering Week we are giving you ‘The Brutally Honest Guide to Volunteering’!

As a volunteer you are buying a product: Whether you are paying or ‘just’ offering your time, you are in fact paying that organisation. So before you go off and volunteer you should decide what you are looking to buy and how much you are willing to pay:

(NB: Our guide is aimed at unskilled volunteers.)

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There are lots of excellent reasons to volunteer with an organisation abroad: To learn new skills, experience new places or meet new people – what is your reason?

What are you looking to gain from volunteering?

Most volunteers are looking to gain more experience in their field and make themselves more employable. Before you sign up, it’s worth researching which skills will give you a competitive edge. Read advertisements for your dream job(s) or browse LinkedIn profiles or CVs of people whose job you would like to have. You’ll soon discover reoccurring skills – these are the ones that volunteering should help you gain.

I’m looking for field experience: Great! What kind of field experience? If you want to work with polar bears learning how to study chimpanzees probably won’t help you… Species-specific opportunities can be amazing, but also fairly limiting in the long run. Instead look for transferable skills: Photo ID, acoustic telemetry, international survey techniques are just some of the methods that can easily be transferred between species and habitats.

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The first week of Love The Oceans’ volunteer programme consists of lectures and training sessions in field research: Here our volunteers are learning how to use a hydrophone to record humpback whale vocalisations.

I want to build my network: The unpleasant truth is that often, it’s not about what you know, but who you know. Choose an organisation that can connect you with the people you want to work with. Check out which other organisations, universities or researchers the organisation is associated with. Look at staff members’ CVs and social media profiles for clues: If the field specialist is BFFs with the supervisor of your dreams, he/she can probably give you an introduction…

A final note: Make sure the people training or supervising you are qualified to do so! Don’t sign up without checking the staff profiles. The project leaders, field specialists and site managers should all be qualified in their fields, otherwise there is no point in signing up to learn from them.

See our team profiles here.

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Every Saturday our volunteers help run swimming lessons for local children.

Where is your money going?

Let’s be honest, paying to volunteer has gotten mixed reviews. However, it can be a good thing, and if you are paying to volunteer you should know where your money is going.

First, let’s look at what you are paying for: Most organisations will ask a fee to cover your stay, e.g. accommodation, food and transport costs. This is simply because it’s easier, cheaper and safer for everyone involved, if the organisation arranges everything. Lodging 20 volunteers at a time often allows the organisation to get a substantial discount – which essentially means you end up paying less. Quite often your volunteer fee also goes towards keeping research projects or conservation efforts running by paying for everyday commodities like petrol for boat engines and cars, and maintaining field research equipment.

Now, why should you pay to volunteer? In addition to cover your stay and help keep research projects running, you are also paying for your training. Keep in mind that as an unskilled volunteer you are not qualified to do your work without training or being supervised. You are paying and/or giving your time in exchange for training, so choose an organisation that provides you with as much training and supervision as possible.

This is what you pay for with Love The Oceans.

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Our volunteers teach about marine biology and sustainable resource use in two of our local schools.

How are you contributing?

Even as an unskilled volunteer, you should be contributing to the organisation’s work. If your work isn’t making a difference, choose a different organisation.

Long terms data sets require thousands of hours of fieldwork: Employing trained professionals to do all the fieldwork is too costly and simply not feasible for most organisations. NGOs therefore rely on volunteers to help with data collection, and most NGOs can attribute their successes to the contribution of volunteers. Imagine all the research, community and conservation work that would never be done without volunteers!

This is how you contribute to Love The Oceans’ research

Be ethically sound!

A final thing to do before you sign up is to research the organisation’s ethical profile to make sure you are not replacing local jobs or engaging in activities that could impact local communities or habitats negatively. Stay clear of organisations that offer short-term commitments with orphanages or wildlife rehabilitation centres – children and animals need stable, long-term relationships with a few caretakers, not volunteers who come and go every few weeks or months.

Read up on Love The Oceans ethical volunteering guidelines here

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Love The Oceans volunteers and staff on the way to a night dive.

Now, are you still not sure if you should volunteer? Take our test – ‘The Brutally Honest Guide to Volunteering’

Should I volunteer

 

Happy National Volunteering Week!

 

Endangered Species Day: Why Good Conservation Work is also Community Work

Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of Endangered Species Day 2018, I introduce our eleventh blog in this marine series:

Endangered Species Day: Why Good Conservation Work is also Community Work

Today’s Endangered Species Day is an incredibly important day for us at Love The Oceans. As a marine conservation organisation protection of endangered species is at the very heart of what we do. Therefore it seems like an obvious choice to dedicate today’s blog post to some of the species that Love The Oceans protects:

The coastline of the Inhambane Province is home to some of the most charismatic megafauna species in the world, but unfortunately many of these species are also endangered and will go extinct in the next few decades if nothing is done to reverse current trends. Manta rays and whale sharks are perhaps the best examples: Between 2003 and 2011 reef manta ray sightings decreased by 88%, and whale shark sightings decreased by 79% between 2005 and 2011.Recent numbers suggest that the decline now approaches 98% for manta rays and 88% for whale sharks. Reversing this decline is at best a daunting task, because when it comes to conservation, there are no quick fixes.

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Have you been lucky enough to encounter one of these gentle giants? Whale shark sightings in the Inhambane Province decreased by 79% between 2005 and 2011, and sightings are due to become even rarer as whale sharks face extinction. (Photo: Lisbeth Damsgaard Jørgensen)

Generally speaking, there are two approaches to conservation: fortress and community-based conservation. These terms might not ring a bell with you, but we guarantee that you have come across one, if not both, of these types of conservation.

Fortress conservation is the ‘good old-fashioned’ approach that has been practised throughout the world for generations. The core of fortress conservation is that it is believed that a conservation problem is solved by removing the threat by keeping humans out. In other words, you simply build a perimeter to keep people out and enforce it using rangers and/or armed guards – hence the name fortress conservation.

This approach has often proved quite successful by allowing ecosystems to completely regenerate after the human influence has been removed. However, there are also numerous cases of fortress conservation failing, and even the ‘victories’ come at a cost: Fortress conservation displaces communities from areas that are of vital importance to their livelihoods or cultural identity, which means that the conservation effort is often at the expense of local communities. This significantly complicates achieving the goal because the local communities end up counter-acting any conservation initiative through things like poaching.

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Conservation starts with understanding the problem – you can’t fix something unless you understand why it’s broken. Targeted elasmobranch fishing is just one of the many problems that are driving manta rays towards extinction. (Photo: Love The Oceans)

The second approach, community-based conservation, is, as the name suggests, rooted in the local communities with conservation efforts developed with, rather than against, the local communities. This is the approach that Love The Oceans uses. Now you might think: “How can you protect an area or an animal if you have to take the local communities into consideration? Weren’t those the people causing the problem in the first place?” Well, let’s go back to our manta rays and whale sharks to understand how.

The first step to a successful conservation effort is to understand the root of the problem. In our case poverty is driving people to practise unsustainable fishing driving manta ray, whale shark and a multitude of other species towards extinction: The two most commonly used types of fishing gear, gill nets and beach seines, are usually deployed perpendicular to the coastline, effectively placing them in the migratory and feeding corridors utilised by manta rays and whale sharks resulting in high levels of bycatch. Manta rays and sharks are however not only caught by accident; they are also targeted by dedicated elasmobranch fisheries.

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Every good community-based conservation effort relies on education. Love The Oceans is teaching the next generation of fishermen about marine biology and sustainable resource use in the local schools. (Photo: Love The Oceans)

Now that we understand the problem, the next step is to enable and empower our communities to solve their own problems: At Love The Oceans the core of our community-based conservation approach is education. We work with our local fishermen running workshops on sustainable fishing, and we educate the next generation of fishermen by teaching about marine biology and sustainable resource use in the local schools. Equipped with the appropriate knowledge our local communities will be ready for the third step: transitioning towards sustainable fishing, ending elasmobranch fishing and establishing a community-managed Marine Protected Area.Eh, didn’t you just say that closed areas are bad because they are established at the expense of local communities?” Yes, we did, and that leads us to the final step in community-based conservation and Love The Oceans conservation strategy: Developing and implementing alternative livelihoods.

A transition towards sustainable fishing and implementing an MPA will invariably involve restrictions on fishing and less fishing in general. Now, the only way this will be feasible is if there is an alternative income source, which brings us back to where we started – the manta rays and whale sharks: These endangered species are ironically enough the solution to preventing their own extinct. Ecotourism is a major industry currently generating US$10.9 million in direct revenue to dive operators in the Inhambane Province annually and the direct economic impact has an estimated value of US$34.0 million annually. Sustainable ecotourism and other alternative income sources can ensure both sustainable livelihoods for our local communities and the protection of endangered species.

Manta rays, whale sharks and other endangered species might not be saved overnight, but we are on the right track and every little victory counts. Let’s use Endangered Species Day to appreciate the amazing species that we are lucky enough to share our planet with and to remember that the best way to save them is to work together. Happy Endangered Species Day!

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Check out our Code of Conduct for whale shark encounters to ensure you are doing your bit to keep ecotourism sustainable.

Stay tuned for more information about our research and conservation work this season by signing up for our newsletter , or by following us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Click here to find out how you can get involved in our work.

Mother Ocean: Beautiful and Essential for Mankind

Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days throughout the year. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of Mother Ocean Day 2018, I introduce our tenth blog in this marine series:

Mother Ocean: Beautiful and Essential for Mankind

On March 12, the day before Mother’s Day, we celebrate Mother Ocean Day. Just like Mother Nature, Mother Ocean is vital for human survival and it’s not only because of the fish we eat. Therefore, in honour of our beloved ocean, this blog will look at ocean ecosystem services and scuba diving – an amazing way to discover and appreciate the ocean’s beauty.

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Source: Scuba Diver Life

The oceans, and coastal marine ecosystems in particular, are crucial for human survival and many livelihoods around the globe depend on the ocean. In this blog we’re going to talk about four marine ecosystem services that humans gain from the ocean: fisheries, coastal protection, carbon sink and recreation and tourism.

Fisheries is the best-known ocean service, providing a critical part of the human diet worldwide, with 17% of all animal protein consumed globally coming from fish. Unfortunately, over 80% of the world’s harvested fish stocks are fully or overexploited due to the high global demand. Virtually every commercially targeted fish depends at some point in its life on various coastal habitats like coral reefs or mangrove forests, which are under threat due to anthropogenic impacts like coastal development and climate change. It is clear that if we want to benefit from this service in the long run, we’ll have to protect coastal habitats and reduce fishing pressure, allowing the stocks to recover.

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Source: BlogSpot

Coastal areas are not only important serving as fish habitats, they also protect human coastal settlements from waves, storm surges and shoreline elevation. Coastal wetlands, mangroves, sea grass beds and coral reefs are highly valuable because they can keep up with the rising sea levels that threaten our coastlines and function as a barrier for waves and storm surges. Investing in protection of these habitats should be more of a priority than building coastal structures, since these marine ecosystems are natural and require little (if any) maintenance costs.

Many marine ecosystems function as a carbon sink. Due to complex processes, habitats like salt marches, mangrove forests and seagrass beds accumulate and store large amounts of carbon, removing it from the carbon cycle for thousands of years. This buffer is essential since our C0emissions influence climate change. Yet, like the fate of many marine services, humans often offset the benefits for their own good. Coastal development and habitat destruction leads to premature release of this stored carbon, accelerating global warming.

Marine recreation and tourism is a well-appreciated ecosystem service, perhaps because of how lucrative it can be. Tourism is a huge business, worth over 9% of global GDP, and marine tourism is popular, with tourists attracted to calm waters, beautiful beaches and in-water activities. Many of these recreational activities depend on healthy oceans, so if humans don’t start protecting them soon, Mother Ocean could become exhausted and human benefits will diminish.

Our beautiful Guinjata Bay at sunrise

Love The Oceans works very hard to study and protect a biodiverse area in Guinjata Bay, Mozambique. Our motto ‘Conservation through research, education and diving’, says it all and we’re always striving for the best environmental practises and protection of the marine world. An important aspect of our work is scuba diving, which is a wonderful way to explore and appreciate the ocean’s beauty. If you haven’t already, give it a try! Your life will not be the same after the ocean casts its spell on you.

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Our volunteers got a surprise visit from a sea turtle on a dive last year

Recreational diving as we know it today is a fairly new activity that started in the 1930s with the rising interest in underwater hunting. Adventurers explored the unknown underwater world with home-made snorkels and spears to hunt fish. The pioneer of this era was Guy Gilpatric who wrote ‘The Compleat Goggler’, one of the first sports diver manuals. One of the people Gilpatric introduced to the sport was Jacques Cousteau, the father of today’s recreational diving and an inspirational marine conservationist. Cousteau actually began diving as a hunter but was quickly drawn to the mysteries of the big blue. Given the practical time and depth limits of breath-hold diving, Cousteau realised there was a need for an air supply, not necessarily to go deeper, but to at least stay longer in what he called ‘a new world’.  He teamed up with compressed air engineer Emile Gagnan in 1942 and together they developed the Aqua-Lung – the first open-circuit scuba regulator that delivers air at the surrounding water pressure only when the diver inhales. Through their invention the focus of recreational diving shifted from hunting to underwater movies and photography, showing the world the beauty of life beneath the surface.

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Jacques Cousteau’s diving partner Frédéric Dumas wearing a CG45 Prototype diving in Marseille, France, 1940s

At that time, diving was for a select group of adventurous individuals, but in the early 1950s the industry grew with gear manufacturers making the basic gear available for everyone. In the years after, the wetsuit and Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) were invented and improved. Eventually in the early 1980s, the recreational diving industry boomed with the invention of the first dive computer, jacket-style BCDs as well as training innovations and multiple organisations such as PADI, SSI, CMAS and NAUI providing dive education, training and a wide range of certifications. Until today, technologic advancements, the increased popularity of SCUBA diving and worldwide availability of training centres and dive spots make this industry a very valuable part of marine tourism.