A new study by Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), in collaboration with Swansea University and All Out Africa, is the first to describe a population of endangered zebra sharks (also commonly called leopard sharks) in Africa. The study reveals a key global hotspot and potential breeding area. Based on these findings, scientists recommend species-level protection and expansion of marine protected areas, to safeguard this charismatic species.
The study used structured underwater surveys and identification photos submitted by scuba diver “citizen scientists” to track individual sharks. Additionally, interviews with 100 local fishermen were used to identify potential zebra shark habitats, who are unfortunately most likely to encounter the animals as bycatch in gillnets. Information from underwater surveys created similar distribution maps and habitat modeling also identified new possible hotspot locations that merit future underwater surveys.
Lead author, Saoirse Pottie explains, “This study adds credibility to using a multi-faceted approach to collect baseline data for marine species. When used in combination, fishers’ observations and dive surveys can complement each other. Fisher surveys can collect sightings information at a wider spatial scale than underwater surveys, yet dive surveys are capable of providing more in-depth information on the movement and behavior of individuals.”
The authors hope to inspire other researchers working in data-deficient locations. “This approach could be applied in other regions to highlight areas of interest, prioritize research activities, and inform conservation actions. The inclusion of local knowledge also provides an opportunity to enrich our understanding of social-ecological systems, engage local communities, and make environmental decisions that are more inclusive,” continues Pottie.
Photos taken by scientists and recreational scuba divers between 2010 and 2018 identified 90 individual sharks of both sexes. 38% of sharks were seen in multiple years, indicating an affinity for the area. Over 62% of the sharks were mature. The high frequency of both male and female adult sharks in a small area indicates a breeding area, which is a prime habitat for protection.
While zebra sharks are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, they lack formal protection in Mozambique, and the majority of the suitable zebra shark habitat identified in this study remains unprotected. According to co-author Anna Flam, an MMF scientist, “This is one of the world’s largest identified populations of zebra sharks and we should protect them, otherwise, we could see them disappear, as has happened in parts of Southeast Asia.”
Recreational scuba divers also assisted in data collection. Zebra sharks have unique spot patterns that can be used to identify individuals and track them over time. Identification photos contributed by scuba divers allowed researchers to increase the scope of data capture. Over the course of this study, the researchers helped create the Wildbook for Leopard Sharks, a global online database that allows scuba divers to submit their photos to support research around the world.
Click here to read the full study published in the journal Ocean and Coastal Management.
For more information about the Marine Megafauna Foundation visit their website by clicking here.
Dive into Africa
The vast African continent includes some of the world’s most iconic scuba diving adventures. 38 of Africa’s countries have a coastline and the continent offers a huge diversity of diving due to it being bordered by the Indian Ocean in the East and Southeast, the Red Sea in the Northeast, the Mediterranean in the North and the Atlantic Ocean in the West and Southwest.
What better way to spend a holiday than discovering the incredible wildlife of Africa above and below the water? From stunning coral fringed islands to incredible shark encounters, Africa offers some of the finest dive travel adventures worldwide. Read on for a few of our favourites below…
Haliotis – São Vicente, Cape Verde
Cape Verde is an underestimated diving area on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean that will surprise you with such an incredible biodiversity and quantity of life that it seems as if you are in an aquarium!
From colorful fish shoals, huge stingrays, sea turtles, crazy camouflaged frogfishes to the frequently spotted sharks and even mantas rays, combined with warm waters, good visibility and a huge variety of dive spots, it makes the diving here indescribable!
Haliotis dive center is situated in Hotel Oasis Porto Grande – a 4 star Hotel in the center of Mindelo on São Vicente, the most cultural island of Cape Verde where music, art and a party atmosphere is present at every corner.
We offer daily diving and snorkeling trips, snorkeling with sea turtles, try dives and PADI courses all year around.
We offer an unbeatable combination of quality equipment for renting, nice facilities, modern rib boat with two engines to guarantee safety, and a professional and dynamic team of PADI Instructors and Divemasters that will do everything to provide the best experience ever. Always with safety and fun as the main goal, which will make your stay in São Vicente unforgettable!
Wining and Diving – South Africa
South Africa’s coastline is wild and rugged and has some of the best marine encounters and diving in the world! It is also home to some superb vineyards and so this is a top destination for Wining & Diving! If you have enough time, then try to fit in several destinations on a tour; take in the Sardine Run, go Great White Shark cage diving, snorkel with Blue and Mako Sharks, try to find Sevengill Sharks in the kelp forest, meet the raggies and oceanic shark species near Aliwal Shoal and make sure you dive with the Cape Fur Seals just down the road from Cape Town…..
Ocean Tribe – Diani Beach, Kenya
Ocean Tribe offers scuba diving trips and PADI diving courses in Diani Beach, Kenya. Local diving includes fantastic coral reefs and wrecks, all located within a 15 minute boat ride of the dive centre. In addition to standard reef life, Diani is famous for numerous green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles plus guitar rays, and between December and April, chances to see whale sharks and manta rays. Consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in the world, Diani is a must see for divers combined with an African safari trip.
For divers searching for the land and underwater adventure of a lifetime, Ocean Tribe offer bespoke dive and African land safari trips for the chance to see some of the World-famous wildlife. Including hotels and lodge accommodation, dives and a few days in the savannah viewing the spectacle of Kenya’s game followed by the underwater world we know and love, this is not to be missed!
St Helena – The Secret is Out!
St Helena is one of the most remote islands in the world, often referred to as the Secret of the South Atlantic, where it lies 1,200 miles off Namibia and 2,500 miles off Brazil. How we got to visit this incredible island is a story in itself…..
Ocean Spirit Diving – Pereybere, Mauritius
In the centre of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is on the largely unexplored Mascarene plateau, and only 9% of this paradise has been charted by divers. An independent state which was previously a British colony, Mauritius is an English, French and Creole-speaking Island renowned for its British efficiency, elegant French flair and Creole exuberance, tempered with gentle Hindu harmony.
Sharks circle year-round in the caverns under the Northern Islands and we dive in crystal clear clean water with 80m viz. In winter, seasonal up-wellings bring plankton and the viz can drop to 20m, and the ocean is full of shoaling fish, whales and dolphins. Endangered Hawksbill and Green Turtles are here year-round.
Ocean Spirit is a PADI 5 Star Diving Centre and the only Project Aware Conservation Green Star centre in Pereybere, Mauritius, offering Shark diving, Wreck diving, dramatic drop offs and drifts, exquisite corals, rare macro and abundant marine life in a pollution free pristine environment.
Diving is all about socializing and making new friends, and at Ocean Spirit we make sure you will do exactly that. Our dive masters and instructors love diving, they know their fish and they share their passion. Beach barbecues, lunches and de-briefs mean that you will make new friends from all over the world.
Diving the Wrecks of Mauritius
Over 480 ships have been wrecked off the coast of Mauritius over the last 400 years. Most of these wrecks are within easy reach of the dive centres in the North, and a Safari trip to Coin de Mire makes a great day’s diving…..
Octopus Divers – Praslin Island, Seychelles
Tel: +248 423 2602
Diving center located in Praslin, Seychelles, we offer daily diving trips, intro dives and Padi courses (from Scuba Diver up to Instructor).
Mention ‘Scubaverse’ when booking to receive the following special offer: Single Dive EUR 50 per person and Twin Tank Dive EUR 100 per person.
Mantas and Whale Sharks gain protection in Mozambique
After 20 years of research and lobbying efforts, the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) is thrilled to announce a major legislative victory for ocean life in Mozambique. A new commercial fishing law enacts sweeping protections for several threatened species, including whale sharks, manta rays, and all mobula species…..
Fun Divers Zanzibar – Nungwi, Zanzibar
Fun Divers Zanzibar is the local expert for scuba diving and the only locally owned dive operation in Zanzibar. Our team of friendly Zanzibari grew up in the fishing village of Nungwi and previously experienced the reefs around northern Zanzibar as local fishermen for many years. As a PADI Dive Resort and a Divers Alert Network Industry Partner, we value our customers dive safety and are committed to professional dive training.
The marine reserves of Zanzibar Island (Unguja) offer a huge choice of sites to explore, and the variety of wall and reef dives suit every level of diver qualification. Common marine life sightings are dolphins, sea turtles, tropical reef fish, a large variety of macro marine life and extraordinary sea creatures. Learn why March to the end of May is the ultimate diving season around Zanzibar Island’s north coast.
Fun Divers Zanzibar arrange daily excursions to the best dive sites of Zanzibar Island, which can be reached in 5 to 45 minutes from the base at Nungwi Beach. Diving is guided only in small groups to allow an exclusive and personalised underwater experience. Quality branded dive gear from Scubapro and Mares is provided for hire for free.
Zanzibar Scuba Special
Local PADI Dive Resort Fun Divers Zanzibar is offering a 20% discount on pre-booking dive packages, try diving, scuba diving courses and snorkeling for February until the end of July 2022. Send your booking enquiry by email to email@example.com
All about Sharklife
There is nothing quite like seeing an apex predator in the wild and divers are very fortunate to have the privilege to get up close and personal with one of the world’s most striking predators. South Africa is home to a great number of shark species that attract thousands of tourists every year. Great Whites, Tigers and Bull sharks are just some examples of over 100 different shark species living in the oceans around the South African coastline…..
New Study Values Madagascar Whale Shark Tourism at $1.5 Million Amid Calls for Stronger Protections
The three-month whale shark tourism season in Nosy Be (NW Madagascar) has been valued at $1.5 million USD
Tourists who visit specifically to swim with whale sharks spend 55% more ($901,274) than ‘casual’ whale shark tourists ($581,239)
Calls for sustainable tourism measures to protect whale sharks are overwhelmingly supported by operators and tourists
67.4% of tourists are more likely to choose a destination if whale sharks are protected
A new study published in the journal Tourism in Marine Environments has valued the whale shark tourism industry in Madagascar’s Nosy Be for the first time, with the three-month season worth $1.5 million USD to the local economy.* The study has revealed the economic benefit that whale sharks provide as the region prepares for the return of tourists following COVID-19.
Stella Diamant, the project’s leader and research associate with the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), as well as the founder of the Madagascar Whale Shark Project, said, “this study has confirmed the importance of sustainable whale shark tourism to Madagascar’s economy, particularly during its pandemic recovery. Considering the region’s international reputation as a whale shark hotspot, and the presence of an international airport, it’s likely that its shark tourism industry will grow considerably once international travel resumes.”
The study found that ‘dedicated’ whale shark divers – travelers who visited specifically to swim with whale sharks – spent six times as much as ‘casual’ whale shark tourists ($547 vs. $92 respectively). Despite making up just a fifth of respondents (20.5%), the expenditure of this group was worth 55% more overall ($901,274) than causal whale shark divers ($581,239).
Both tourists (93.4%) and operators (91.7%) overwhelmingly support formal protections for whale sharks in Madagascar.**
The majority (67.4%) of tourists stated they were more likely to choose a tourism destination if whale sharks were protected.
Despite being globally endangered, whale sharks are not formally protected in Malagasy waters and are threatened by fishery bycatch, collisions with vessels, and pollution. Tour operators overwhelmingly supported legal protection for whale sharks in Madagascar and highlighted the potential to introduce regulations to avoid overcrowding, as interest in swimming with the sharks grows internationally. Operators suggested levying fines or sanctions for anyone behaving irresponsibly around the sharks.
Dr. Jackie Ziegler from the University of Victoria in Canada and lead author of the study said, “it’s far more difficult to scale back activities compared to managing tourism sustainably from the start. Our work has shown clear support from both tourism operators, and the tourists themselves, to ensure that swimming with whale sharks in Madagascar is a world-class ecotourism experience.”
MMF Principal Scientist Dr. Simon Pierce added, “Madagascar is best-known now for its amazing land animals, such as lemurs and chameleons, but the marine wildlife is equally spectacular. It’s fantastic to see that Nosy Be tourism operators are committed to protecting these gentle giants as well as high-quality ecotourism.”
This study was led by the Madagascar Whale Shark Project in collaboration with the Marine Megafauna Foundation, University of Victoria, Marine Wildlife Conservation Society, and Florida International University. It was supported by MADA Megafauna, Aqua-Firma, Ocean Giants Trust, and the Vocatio Foundation.
For more information about the Marine Megafauna Foundation visit their website by clicking here.