Malanda diver pools whale shark shots
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.