Tara at Malpelo Island: from corals to sharks

© Maggy Nugues / CRIOBE

28 July 2016

In a few days, the Tara team will live a special interlude in the long quest of coral. From August 2 to 9, the schooner will lend a helping hand to the Malpelo Foundation to study one of the Pacific giants: the whale shark.

After the first dives in Panama and a short stopover in Buenaventura, in Colombia, Tara will head due west towards Malpelo, a small island located 500 km off the Colombian coast. An “iceberg” of sheer and barren rock: 300 meters above sea level at its highest point, but under the surface, vertical drop-offs plunge down to 4,000 meters. Located at the junction of many ocean currents, Malpelo provides ideal conditions to accommodate extraordinary marine biodiversity. This Colombian island is known to divers from all around the world who come to admire one of the richest concentrations of large predators: hammer sharks, silky sharks and of course, whale sharks.

Requin BaleineWhale shark – Maggy Nugues / CRIOBE

Tara has provided support to the Malpelo Foundation with the aim of monitoring this latter species – the largest fish in the world, sometimes exceeding 15 meters long. In addition to the schooner serving as a study platform during this upcoming week, Tara will carry 9 PAT-Tags, small GPS units to be fixed on the bodies of Malpelo’s sharks. For several weeks the PAT-tags will regularly transmit the exact position of their hosts – valuable information on migration corridors of sharks for a research project conducted over many years by the Malpelo Foundation.

Though the Tara Expeditions Foundation will be at the service of the Colombian NGO for one week, we are still pursuing the goal of the Tara Pacific mission. Two divers will be studying Malpelo coral reefs, at the same time that marking of whale sharks will be carried out. In the heart of this marine sanctuary, as big as Corsica and listed in 2006 as a UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site, this will be an excellent occasion to investigate Malpelo coral from the other end of the marine food chain.

Yann Chavance

 

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