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PADI Women’s Dive Day: Empowered Women Empower Women

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 PADI Women’s Dive Day 2018, I introduce our seventeenth blog in this marine series:

PADI Women’s Dive Day: Empowered Women Empower Women

Today is PADI Women’s Dive Day, a chance for us to celebrate all the amazing women working to protect the marine world and all its treasures. As an organisation that’s run by women, this subject is close to Love The Oceans’ heart so today, we thought we’d talk about 3 women we find particularly inspiring: Eugenie Clark, Danielle Da Silva and Sylvia Earle.

Eugenie Clark
Eugenie Clark was one of the pioneering shark specialists and marine conservationists. She constantly developed new areas of shark research and worked her entire lifetime to dispel the negative public image sharks seem to struggle to shake off, thanks to the likes of Benchley’s ‘Jaws’ and the stories of the USS Indianapolis.  Eugenie unfortunately passed away in 2015, aged 92, but very much remains one of Love The Oceans’ favourite women.

Over Eugenie’s lifespan, she published over 175 scientific articles and 2 books: Lady with a Spear andThe Lady and the Sharks. She was also one of the world leaders in using scuba diving for marine research purposes, something which has become an integral part of many marine research centres today, such as Love The Oceans.

Eugenie Clark

Danielle Da Silva
Danielle is the Executive Director and the Founder of an amazing non-profit called Photographers Without Borders. PWB works to help NGOs and non-profits with their media campaigns by partnering them with videographers and photographers to help create content. To date PWB has helped over 175 NGOs tell their story.

Danielle herself is an award-winning photographer, activist and passionate conservationist, founding PWB at just 21 years old. She’s done TEDx talks on conservation and grassroots initiatives which you can watch hereand she most recently came to Mozambique to film some of the PWB web series which you can see on their Youtube channel. As well as all this, Danielle is also the co-founder of The Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary, so grassroots conservation is something she’s very passionate about and familiar with. Danielle’s commitment to raising awareness of so many incredible non-profit’s work is seriously admirable and puts Danielle in our top 3 inspiring women list!

Danielle Da Silva

Sylvia Earle
Sylvia Earle is another absolutely amazing human being. She is the David Attenborough of the marine conservation world and is still a pioneering scientist, conservationist and activisteven at the ripe age of 82. Besides being an all-round underwater badass, Sylvia holds over 100 national and international honours and is the National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence.

Sylvia founded a marine conservation organisation called Mission Blue which raises awareness of the importance of our marine life and, as of 2009, runs a super-cool initiative called Hope Spots. Hope Spots are nominated areas of the world which are critical to the health of the oceans. They are about recognising, empowering and supporting individuals and communities around the world in their efforts to protect the ocean.

Recently, we nominated our home, Guinjata Bay, and the surrounding area as a Hope Spot to be recognised by Mission Blue. We’re very proud to say this has been successful and we’re now working on the launching campaign in conjunction with Mission Blue to raise awareness of our amazing home and the animals within it. Establishing Guinjata as a Hope Spot and working with Mission Blue will make our bay 1 of 8 Hope Spots on the East African coastline, and only 1 of 2 within Mozambique itself. Given LTO’s mission is to ultimately establish a Marine Protected Area (MPA) through a bottom-up, community-led approach, establishing the area as a Hope Spot is a great first step and the support from Mission Blue will seriously aid our efforts. You can read more about Mission Blue and their Hope Spot initiative here.

Sylvia Earle

Since it’s PADI Women’s Dive Day we also can’t go on without pointing out that the reason this day is such a celebration for our organisation is that Love The Oceans is run by women. Francesca Trotman is our Founder and Andrea Biden our Executive Director, both extremely passionate marine conservationists who believe in empowering women to change the world. Women’s place in society in rural Mozambique is something we constantly battle with so it’s really important that our staff know how to break down the social boundaries in a culturally appropriate way to boost women and ultimately alleviate poverty which leads to more successful conservation initiatives. When you alleviate poverty, people have more head-space to think about things like conservation and it’s no secret that poverty alleviation is intrinsically linked to women’s place in society. A while back we wrote a blog about our work with women to help our conservation efforts. You can read this here.

Love The Oceans
Our Founder, Francesca Trotman, Venture Leader, Lisbeth Damsgaard and Field Specialist, Hannah Williams on a dive today for #PADIwomensdiveday

Today, for PADI Women’s Dive Day, we invite you to recognise the awesomeness in your fellow female scuba divers and marine conservationists and celebrate women in the underwater world. After all, no matter what sex you are, conservationists are needed and, as they say, teamwork makes dream work!

July Program Week 2

Blue Group – Emma, Jason, Max

What a crazy week. We started the official programme after our initial training week and were split into four groups. Blue group for the win! 😉 Our days have been divided between fisheries research, coral reef and whale surveying, switching between them each day. Every evening meal has been absolutely delicious, but nothing can beat the local Matapa!

Our first day we were allocated to fisheries research at Pandaine Bay. It was a very early start but well worth the walk during sunrise. Our day was very chilled as the sea was too rough so no fisherman appeared, so we just sat back and soaked in the sun and view instead.

Next we spent a day whale watching and doing fisheries at Guinjata bay just a 10 minute walk from our accommodation. Unfortunately all three of us get seasick which is a challenge, but thankfully sucking on a lolly saves the day. We didn’t have much luck seeing whales but logged a few fish at Guinjata.

Coral reef surveying was a very interesting day. During our first dive we were able to hear multiple humpback whales singing! However, during our second dive a mix of strong surge and current flew us around, but we finally managed to finish our work. This was then followed by a tiring evening of logging our washing machine data and footage.

On Thursday we did another whale watching bout, again coming up sadly short, although spearfishermen brought up an electric ray and a trumpetfish.

We ended the week where we began, at Paindane. The sea became a lot more calm during the week so we saw a lot more fish this time, including a Dorado and a scalloped hammerhead! After retrieving the vertebrae we were luckily able to dissect and learn a lot about the anatomy and science of it.

The weekends are our time off and we’re all looking forward to a bit of surfing (hopefully) and visiting Tofo on Sunday!

Green Group – Hannah R, Kealan, Ailsa

We started off the week with coral reef surveys so after what seemed like years of bad weather we were all eager to finally get some dives in. The surge had other plans though making collecting the data quite challenging but it did give us some good laughs when reviewing the footage – lots of upside down shots provided by our one and only Kealan. Not sure he’ll be trying out underwater photography anytime soon. However being the snorkeler on the first dive paid off when we saw a whale shark swim under our boat! For once the divers were jealous. Ha.

The next day saw us assigned to fisheries duty where we had to make the 5am trek to Paindane beach. After battling through the morning wind and the rain we finally made it so a well-deserved nap was needed. After a long day of diving the previous no one was complaining about chilling on a beach for the day (aka working on our tans so it looks like we’ve actually been to Africa).

Most of the day no fish were caught so we decided to head out and catch some ourselves (see photo). The rest of the day was spent playing some intense games of eye-spy and a lot of DMCs were had. Finally, as we were packing up our efforts of randomly shouting peixe (fish) at people were rewarded when a group of spear fishermen kindly let us measure and take photos of their catch.

On Wednesday we were assigned to whale watching duty and fisheries at Guinjata bay. Unfortunately due to a volleyball related injury our team was one member down so the remaining members, Hannah and Kealan, were left to pick up the slack. The fisheries saw a busier day than at Paindane with catches including lobster, octopus and moray eels. On the second whale-watching excursion of the day we were even lucky enough to see two humpback whales, only 10m away from the boat!  The day was finished off with an endless supply of Matapa, one of the finest dishes of local cuisine the restaurant has to offer, a definite must try.

The week ended with a trip back to Paindane on Thursday and some more diving for the coral reef surveys on Friday. At Paindane we managed to log an impressive 101 fish! We also made a new Mozambican friend who decided to give us a beach lecture about the history of Mozambique. He also has a great name. Nando. Got to love a good Nando. Diving on Friday in some great conditions was also not such a bad end to our second week with Love The Oceans.

Red Group – Bethany, Alfie, Joshua, Hannah M

On Monday we had planned a lesson at Guinjata school on sharks and painted the exterior walls of the principal’s office. Photographers without Borders representatives filmed us teaching the first lesson to put into their documentary to teach about what Love The Oceans is all about.

Tuesday, we finished our murals on the teachers’ walls, and went back to teach a few lessons on rays, which went quite a bit better than the day before due to our increase of confidence with the material. Alfie had the song “It’s coming home!” stuck in his head and ended up teaching the kids the words. Since it was football night, some of us watched the football at the bar, while everyone else played card games. Dinner had greeted us with a traditional Portuguese dish, Feijão (Portuguese Beans).

Wednesday, we changed over to Paindane school and started to fill in paintings that had been started. Since we had time, we ended up teaching one kid the Macarena. Dinner for the night was another traditional dish, Matapa, which is always thoroughly enjoyed by almost everyone. It was another football night, unfortunately disappointing that England lost the semi-final.

Thursday, we finished the murals that we had previously started at Paindane and the crest on the Mozambican flag. We had taught a new group of kids about rays and our educational games were well received by the kids who enjoyed everything we had taught them.

Friday was the last day at the schools and it seemed like it was the hottest day of the week. We had decided to draw up some ideas for a new wall that included the Mission Statement, Values and Vision of the school, decorating it with small fish. We finished off the day with our last two lectures on sharks which the kids were quite involved with. After we finished we ended up singing and dancing, both Western and local songs with the kids, and having some of them teach us a few Bitonga words.

Yellow Group – Tom, Sophie, Natalie

We had a gentle start to the first week of work, with no whales spotted whale watching and only 2 fish caught in Guinjata bay, followed by a day of diving. Both of our diving days had a lot of surge (footage almost made us seasick) but it was great to get in the water.

The early start for Paindane bay fishery duty was made worthwhile by an incredible sunrise and the weather was so good one member of the group got a bit sunburnt… On our way back we found a mystery white pouch. Please leave suggestions as to what it is in the comments below.

We finished with a fish-filled Friday! Our second day of Guinjata fisheries couldn’t have been more different to the first, with over 250 individuals recorded. A particularly interesting method of catch was used, we think the fishermen used a toxin from a plant to kill fish they had herded into a net by drumming with sticks in the tide pools. We also ran into a tiny puppy.

We’re off to a flying start on the research programme! It’s been great to get out into the field this week for both staff and volunteers – and we are very excited for the coming weeks. Over the past week we’ve been very impressed with the teams who have shown up smiling (even at 5:45 am), powered on through seasickness, tackled tricky diving conditions and gotten stuck into the fish ID!

Shark Awareness Day: Sharks are more awesome than you think!

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 Shark Awareness Day 2018, I introduce our sixteenth blog in this marine series:

Shark Awareness Day: Sharks are more awesome than you think!

Sharks, arguably the most impressive predators in our oceans, are the subject of today’s blog in honour of Shark Awareness Day 2018, July 14th. Sharks are a widely misunderstood group of magnificent animals that are vital to the health of our oceans and, unfortunately, under serious threat due to human impacts.

shark awareness day 2018

About 500 species of shark roam our seas and oceans. They are cartilaginous fish that, together with the rays, are grouped in the subclass of Elasmobranchs. Sharks come in all shapes and sizes and are found in almost every ocean habitat, from coral reefs and the open ocean to the deep sea and even under the Arctic ice. The smallest shark discovered to date, the dwarf lantern shark, fits in the palm of your hand, while the largest one, the whale shark, is the largest fish in the sea and can grow up to 20 meters.

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One of our staff members having an awesome encounter with a Whale Shark!

Sharks have been around for over 400 million years and have always been at the top of the foodweb, controlling organisms at lower levels and ensuring productivity and balance in the ocean’s ecosystems. It’s only in the last few decades that these predators have become prey, threatened and killed in increasingly large numbers by humans.

Many sharks are killed for the shark fin industry, a fishing practice whereby sharks are caught, fins removed, and then they are thrown back into the ocean to die. This is to meet the demand for shark fin soup, a highly-priced delicacy in Asia, bought and consumed to demonstrate affluence at special events like weddings.

Sharks are also very often caught unintentionally by net fisheries. This accidental killing of sharks is called bycatch and it poses additional threats to shark populations. In the last 35 years estimates indicate that global shark populations have decreased by around 90% and the life history characteristics of sharks mean their populations struggle to bounce back. Sharks are long-living and slow-growing animals that only reach sexual maturity after 10-15 years. They give birth to only a few pups at a time, which is why their populations are more vulnerable to collapse.

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The sad fate of sharks being finned

Sharks need protection in order to keep the balance in the oceans and give populations the chance to recover after being depleted. A big hurdle in shark conservation is the perception of sharks being dangerous, scary, killing machines – an image fuelled by films like ‘Jaws’ and the more recent ‘47 Meters Down’. Whilst sharks are impressive sharp-toothed hunters that look pretty badass, sadly they are way more threatened by us than we are by them. On average, less than 10 fatal shark attacks occur every year around the world: you are more likely to die taking a selfie or be struck by lightning. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed by humans per year. That is over 11,000 sharks killed PER HOUR!  If this trend continues, shark populations will decline so drastically that entire oceanic ecosystems will collapse, which will lead to a cascade effect through our oceans, ultimately leading to commercial fisheries collapsing and a huge lack of fish protein.

So, if we want to keep benefitting from these ocean services, we need to raise awareness of the plight of our sharks and ensure they receive the protection they so desperately need.

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A tiger shark caught on a longline in Mozambique

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Around the world, many small and larger scale conservation organisations are trying to understand the ecology and behaviour of sharks and the effects of fisheries on their populations. Gathering scientific data is a vital process in understanding and eventually protecting sharks. Love the Oceans does this in Guinjata Bay in Southern Mozambique, where data on artisanal fisheries is collected by volunteers overseen by qualified marine biologists for almost 4 years now. Sharks (and rays) are frequently caught by longlines and gillnets within our research area, and even though these are fairly small scale fisheries, we don’t know how sustainable they are. Multiple years of data collection will result in a better understanding of the fishing practices in our area and eventually create a sustainable fishery in cooperation with the local fishermen. Apart from the scientific research, Love The Oceans also educates the next generation of fishermen: the kids in two local schools, on the importance of sharks, conservation and responsible marine resource management and teaches water safety with weekly swimming lessons.

PhotographersWithoutBorders_ORG_ JeffHester_#7
One of Love The Oceans’ team teaching the kids about Whale Sharks

To sum it up, we are HUGE FANS of sharks and as scuba divers we value more than anyone the experience of seeing these animals thriving in their natural environment. Shark Awareness Day doesn’t mean you have to run into the ocean to hug a tiger shark, but Love The Oceans invites you to celebrate this day by appreciating the beauty of sharks and their necessity for balanced and properly functioning ocean ecosystems from which we all enjoy the benefits.

Happy Shark Awareness Day, everyone!!!

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July Program Week 1

Our introductory week as volunteers for Love The Oceans (LTO) began on Monday, with our lectures and beach practical finishing relatively early so we had a chance to go for a swim whilst the sun was still up. The volunteer group spent the evening chatting and getting to know each other over an amazing local curry.

We were supposed to complete our coral reef transect training dives on Tuesday morning, but unfortunately the wind picked up and it got quite stormy, meaning the dives had to be called off. Instead we cracked on with more introductory lectures to set us up for the rest of the data collection activities. In the evening we unwound over a big group game of cards, which we have found is the best entertainment when everyone is eager for dinner!

The next morning we were up early again to try and fit in our dives but the wind and surface current were still too strong. Also due to the bad weather, the electricity in the LTO classroom was down and so we gathered in the kitchen to go through the humpback whale and megafauna ID lectures and get some fisheries ID practice. We also had a very entertaining practical after this with Kealan providing very convincing humpback whale noises in the pool to help us understand how to use and deploy the hydrophone. The group then went on a car trip along the bush roads and we saw some local agriculture and where we will be carrying out fisheries research.

Thursday started with a beach clean at Guinjata Point. After an hour and a half in the sharp wind, the group had collected an impressive 24 kg of trash. After lunch the LTO Beach Olympics extravaganza began. Among other things this event included: building the highest sand structure; guiding our team members through a maze while blindfolded; and creating LTO art in the sand. Tensions were high as the score reached 4-4 before the final event, ending in the victorious team winning by just one point. We then had a friendly ‘game’ of beach volleyball in which the aim (based on our skill level) was more focused on just keeping the ball in play… which we just about achieved!

On Friday we had a morning lecture about Guinjata and Paindane schools and LTO’s achievements and aims so far. This was followed by a check of our fish ID’s that we’d completed earlier in the week, surprisingly we managed to get most of them right! For the rest of the day we headed out to visit both of the schools, which effectively meant lots of football playing with hundreds of very enthusiastic kids. After dodging several electricity wires from the back of the truck, we arrived at Pascal’s (LTO’s translator) house to meet his family. After helping collect several buckets of water from the well, we were generously rewarded with a coconut each to drink and eat. Feeling a little rejuvenated, we did some dancing (but were hopelessly outmatched) and then began yet another mass football game, eventually retiring to enjoy some delicious matapa.

 

We can’t believe we’ve already had the July volunteers for over a week! It’s been amazing having you and we’re looking forward to the next month in Mozambique with you! 

May/June Program Week 5 (Final week)

We’re so sad to say goodbye to our wonderful May/June volunteers! Here is their final week’s blog post…
This week we welcomed 4 new lovely volunteers to Mozambique as well as welcoming back Matt, Liz, and Andrea. Jason, Ailsa, Natalie, and Bethany have spent this week working hard towards becoming Open Water Divers and as of today, they are finally certified! They are now able to explore the other 70% of the world!
Our last week started off with some wonderful diving in Pao Rock, where we logged over 280 fish in one dive (!!), who said all Mondays are bad? Conditions were amazing and we even had a cuttlefish during our fun dive after the reef assessment.
On Tuesday a road trip to the Immigration Office was due and of course, we couldn’t say no to some KFC afterwards. Some of us decided to stay behind and do some signs for the resort and the dive centre which turned out really nice, amongst all painting and road tripping there was one thing that was still in our to-do list: Celebrate Saskia’s birthday! The staff at the resort went above and beyond for this occasion, they set up our table beautifully with some lovely cocktails and sang Happy Birthday in Portuguese. We all had a lovely night and could not have been more grateful for such a kind gesture.
After Tuesday’s celebration, it was time to get back to work. Wednesday was spent by the beach doing fisheries as well as whale watching. They seem to be very active in the morning and calmer in the afternoons, but fear not you can easily spot these gentle giants every day. We’ve had wonderful sightings of breaching and are expecting whales to come in bigger numbers as the season goes on.
After a couple of days of light rain, we carried out another coral reef survey on Thursday, this time we saw a very wide spread of coral which can only mean more biodiversity! There has not been any concerning coral bleaching which just motivates us more to acquire the data needed to make our bay a Marine Protected Area. As time goes on the underwater environment we’ve experienced here never ceases to amaze us.
For our last day we did whale surveys as well as fisheries, however, our area is quite lively at the moment with families due to school holidays so less fishing in this area was expected. Jay’s dive center and LTO Staff embarked on an exploratory dive to assess a possible new dive spot, they had the joy of coming across a manta and numerous whales which keeps showing how valuable marine life is in the bay. On our second whale watching trip we had a quiet session, however, we had the joy of welcoming back to the boat Jason, Ailsa, Natalie and Bethany from their last open water dive and thus certified! After a hard working week, some celebrations are in order for all of the volunteers as well as staff.
Our time in Mozambique has been a beautiful experience that we will never forget. To live so deep within a loving and kind culture has affected us differently in many ways, we have expanded our comfort zone and made bonds that have made us feel at home. We will miss Mozambique and will dearly remember all the memories. Nevertheless, while there will be some heartfelt goodbyes we still have Saturday and Sunday for some diving and final glance at the place that has been our home for 5 weeks.
Mozambique you have left us speechless and the turned us into storytellers.
Thank you for keeping up with our adventure,
Ellie, Saskia, and Nikki

Ellie, Saskia and Nikki, it’s been a true pleasure having you with us in our slice of paradise over the past month and a half. We wish you all the best in your ventures and look forward to welcoming you back at some point!! Big hugs!

May/June Program Week 4

We kicked off our week with an early morning dive on manta reef, with a turtle at our drop point and endless shoals of fish, during which Ellie completed her final dive for her advanced open water qualification! Francesca and Saskia were also lucky enough to spot a bowmouth guitarfish and managed to snap some incredible footage. Later that evening we celebrated Tam’s birthday. Tam is one of our fabulous dive instructors and it was only her second week in Guinjata so we decided to celebrate in style. We had a Moz style birthday party on Saturday evening with improvised Harry Potter glasses and wands, chocolate cake, traditional birthday singing by the restaurant staff and a late night (and by late we mean we left the restaurant after nine pm!)

The next day we had a slow morning and then headed off with Francesca and Tam for a day trip to Tofo via the Inhambane market. After a very successful shopping trip in a clothes shop version of Aladdin’s cave we continued our drive to Tofo for souvenir shopping and surfing.

Tofo is beautiful and a lovely day trip from Guinjata. The town is bustling by comparison to our bay, and we were all somewhat shocked to be surrounded by so many people after enjoying rural life for the last four weeks. After collecting souvenirs for family and friends, and Nikki using her new-found skills in Portugese to haggle like a pro we made our way to hire surfboards. The usual hire shop was closed, but we hired boards from a nearby dive centre and Saskia and Ellie had a fantastic hour learning the basics of surfing under Tam’s watchful gaze. We then bought some cake and headed to Sunset Lodge on the way home for cocktails and a gorgeous sunset, managing to avoid excessive mosquito bites all evening!

On Tuesday on our first coral reef dive Saskia, Nikki and Francesca were lucky enough to hear whale song whilst under the water, and were so transfixed they extended their safety stop to listen. The song was so loud they could feel the vibrations in their chests. Ellie was unimpressed that whales decided to sing on the dive that she wasn’t on, and is convinced that they are deliberately avoiding her. Our second survey was considerably more challenging, as we battled with a changing current and surge to complete the transect.

The whales finally seem to have arrived in earnest and we have had several sightings from the boat this week. We hope that our sightings will continue to increase throughout our final week here, as we are all desperate to have as much time with the whales as possible before we head home.

We are looking forward to the arrival of the other members of LTO staff and some of the volunteers for the next programme on Sunday, but are beyond sad that we are now in our last week in Guinjata. The time has gone unbelievably quickly, and we hope to cram in some more awesome experiences in our last week.

Ocean love to all, Ellie, Saskia and Nikki.

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
Picture3
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