Thursday, September 27, 2012

Aye Calypso

OK hands up those who remember the 1970s TV series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and his boat RV Calypso? Well, Jacques died in 1997 but his work goes on. Next month a partnership between the world’s only submarium, The Deep, and the research arm of The Cousteau Society, Equipe Cousteau will begin the first ever conservation work to help protect the endangered manta ray population in the Red Sea

Scientists are being deployed into the field for the first time to collect data on size, migratory patterns, feeding habits, habitat, swimming depths and possible nursery grounds. The expert team of researchers will carry out state-of-the-art fieldwork in the Dungonab Bay Marine Park in Sudan once a year from next month over the next five years. Monitoring the species will generate essential baseline information on the manta ray population producing the critical first block in establishing effective management and conservation strategies to protect the globally iconic species. The information will also be utilised to initiate sustainable and regulated ecotourism related activities to benefit the local Sudanese population.

Little is known about the movements and numbers of manta rays: a species that is key component of the world’s marine biodiversity. A symbol of freedom in the oceans, manta rays are highly vulnerable, designated as a near-threatened species in 2006; populations grow very gradually and are slow to recover once depleted. The animals typically live for over 20 years and are slow to reach sexual maturity giving birth only once every five to six years to a live single pup, possibly two on rare occasions. Unregulated recreational diving and mostly illegal but well-developed global fishery pose further dangers for the species. Manta rays are targeted for their meat, skin, cartilage and branchial plates, fetching a high price on the black market. Their inherent inquisitive nature with humans and boats makes them particularly susceptible to fisherman and they are easily targeted due to their large size, slow speed and tendency to be found on the surface of the ocean.

Here’s John Denver, Ding, ding ...

1 comment:

  1. I remember Jacques and Calypso! Used to watch Jacques Cousteau every Sunday and Calypso I've seen up close and personal when it visited my town on the Mississippi one time. That was in the 80's. Good times. Good to see the Calypso is still about!