Ma­landa diver pools whale shark shots

Townsville Bulletin - - Weekend Extra - — IAN FRAZER

AY­OUNG

diver from Ma­landa, now liv­ing in Port­land, Ore­gon, pho­tographed 40 whale sharks this year for Brad Norman’s ECO­CEAN li­brary.

An­nie Stra­chan, 19, took pic­tures of the whale sharks’ dis­tinc­tive mark­ings while visit­ing friends in Don­sol, Philip­pines in April and May.

‘‘The spot pat­tern on each whale shark is unique and as a re­sult pho­to­graphic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is an un­ob­tru­sive way of iden­ti­fy­ing and track­ing,’’ she said in an email to the Townsville Bul­letin.

‘‘I tried to pho­to­graph sev­eral dif­fer­ent ar­eas of each shark I swam with. The high­est pri­or­ity shot was be­hind the gills on the shark’s left side, ad­ja­cent to the pec­toral fin, which is the area used by ECO­CEAN to iden­tify whale sharks.’’

Ms Stra­chan said she had re­ceived help from the Mayor of Don­sol, Salve Ocaya, who re­served a spot for her on a boat which took tourists on whale shark-sight­ing ex­pe­di­tions. She reg­is­tered as a vol­un­teer in Brad Norman’s project af­ter hear­ing about it from her friends Stella Chiu-Fre­und and Yogi Fre­und, of Don­sol, both un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phers.

‘‘It is ex­tremely re­ward­ing to know the data and images that re­sulted from my work in Don­sol will help to pro­tect whale sharks,’’ she said.

‘‘For the photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion method to suc­ceed, whale shark en­coun­ters all over the world need to be doc­u­mented.’’

Ms Stra­chan, who was born in Maine, US, and moved to the Ather­ton Table­land with her fam­ily in 1992, said she planned to study in the US, while re­turn­ing to the Far North as much as pos­si­ble.

Mr Norman said he was grate­ful for An­nie’s haul of pic­tures of more than 40 sharks.

‘‘This is a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of how rel­a­tively sim­ple it is for peo­ple to make an out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to whale shark con­ser­va­tion,’’ he said.

Sight­ings of whale sharks have been re­ported in the Coral Sea in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, but too far off­shore for any eco­tourism ven­ture.

An­nie Stra­chan

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