Flyme & The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWRSP)
The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) is a dual UK & Maldivian registered charity that exists to conduct whale shark research and foster community conservation initiatives throughout the Maldives and the Indian Ocean. The MWSRP was founded on the aim of understanding the population dynamics of the whale sharks in the Maldives and how this fits into the species’ existence in the wider world.
MWSRP & Flyme
When Villa Air announced the imminent arrival of their ‘SeePlane’ on twitter it caught the attention of the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP). It was the potential of this aircraft to be an aerial survey platform that really got the scientists of MWSRP excited. Well, that and the magnificent whale shark hand painted on the fuselage! Fast forward a few months and the MWSRP team are working to design search transects and data collection techniques for the crew who will guide whale shark viewing trips on this fantastic aircraft.
How can aerial surveys help research?
Since inception, the MWSRP have relied on spotting whale sharks from their research vessel, diligently covering the Marine Protection Area (MPA) over the course of about 6 hours a day. Using this method, the researchers have built up detailed models of how many sharks are believed to be in the South Ari Marine Protection Area (S.A.MPA) at any one time and also an idea on whether this number is rising or falling year-on-year based on their search effort. However, a major problem of this is that they can only spot whale sharks less than 3 metres below the surface and within 200m of the shore line. Further, whale sharks spend only a very limited time at the surface so the chances of a whale shark being spotted from a slow moving vessel during that short period is actually quite low. It’s possible that there are a lot more sharks in this region that is currently thought.
The MWSRP & Flyme partnership has the potential to produce some really exciting scientific findings.If you would like to know more about the MWSRP, then please keep an eye on their website for updates ( www.mwsrp.org) or follow them on Facebook; www.facebook.com/MWSRP and Twitter; www.twitter.com/mwsrp. Read the latest MWSRP newsletter here! http://bit.ly/1DuSUYv
Credit for main photograph: Gregor Kervina