08 February 2006

Project AWARE whale shark project joins forces with ECOCEAN

Project AWARE whale shark project joins forces with ECOCEAN - photo courtesy of Mark CaneyProject AWARE Foundation, the dive industry's leading non-profit environmental organisation has recently joined forces with ECOCEAN a marine conservation group dedicated to the conservation of the whale shark.

In 2003 Project AWARE Foundation launched an initiative in partnership with the Shark Trust to help PADI Dive Centres and Resorts recruitdivers to travel overseas to areas visited by Whale Sharks.

The Project AWARE Whale Shark ID Project incorporates a Distinctive Specialty created by PADI that gives divers essential knowledge and skills to dive or snorkel responsibly with Whale Sharks and to obtain valuable information or photographs. There is also a website whereby snorkelers and divers can submit their photographs and contribute vital information to researchers studying Whale Shark migrations.

To further Project AWARE's Whale Shark conservation work, all photos submitted to www.whalesharkproject.org will also be given to ECOCEAN for their own Whale Shark research. Project AWARE, the Shark Trust and ECOCEAN will be working closely together to build a global database of Whale Shark migration patterns, movements, and behaviour.

Whale sharks are a spectacular living resource and an encounter is an experience of a lifetime. Unfortunately, the whale shark population is in decline and without having more information, we cannot prove just how endangered and at risk this population is.

Henrik Nimb, Director of Project AWARE Asia Pacific commented: "We are delighted to be working with ECOCEAN who have considerable knowledge and expertise in this area. We look forward supporting their valuable work through our own Whale Shark ID Project."

Brad Norman of ECOCEAN said, "ECOCEAN is greatly encouraged by Project AWARE's commitment to assist ECOCEAN's research for the global conservation of these ‘gentle giants'. The ECOCEAN Library already houses Whale Shark sightings from 26 countries, and we very much look forward to expanding this number with input from PADI members to further understand numbers and migrations of this threatened species."

Ali Hood of The Shark Trust added, "Making the most of an encounter with a Whale Shark by taking photo ID images is of great value to the research community whilst adding real value to the divers experience. Through our relationship with Project AWARE we have received a large number of images and records through our online reporting system. The Whale Shark website is now being updated to improve feedback and functionality and to make learning about Whale Sharks even more fun.

The Shark Trust is excited at the prospect of working more closely with ECOCEAN, the more images we can gather, the greater the knowledge gained."

How you can help?
If you've always dreamt of diving or snorkelling with a whale shark, then visit the Education and Awareness section of www.projectaware.org to find out details of dive centres and resorts actively participating in the International Whale Shark Project. At these dive centres you may have the opportunity to enrol on to a Whale Shark Awareness Speciality course, which will give you essential knowledge and skills to dive or snorkel responsibly with whale sharks. This course will also give you more information about biology, behaviour and distribution of the world's largest fish. If you want to contribute to their protection, take a photograph and record a few details when you are fortunate enough to come across one. Alternatively, if you already have a photo, take a look in your logbooks for details of when and where you saw the whale shark, and log this photo and info rmation on to www.whalesharkproject.org. Each photo submitted will make a genuine contribution to the understanding and future conservation of the whale sharks. All photos will also be given to ECOCEAN for further analysis.

About Project AWARE
Project AWARE is the dive industry's leading non-profit environmental organisation dedicated to conserving underwater environments through education, advocacy and action. Project AWARE Foundation offices located in Australia, United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Switzerland combine efforts to conserve aquatic resources in 175 countries of the world.

For further information visit www.projectaware.org

ECOCEAN – Research, Education and Conservation has consistently worked for the conservation of the whale shark since its formation in 2000. It successfully nominated the whale shark as a threatened species in Australia in 2001; assisted with the successful nomination at the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2002; and was recently added as an ‘official observer NGO' at the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (Nairobi, Nov 2005), based in Australia, ECOCEAN is international in focus – encouraging members of the public throughout the world to participate in whale shark conservation - via the web-based whale shark photo-identification library, initiated in 1995. www.ecocean.org

About the Shark Trust
The Shark Trust is the conservation charity dedicated to the study, management and conservation of sharks, skates and rays. The Shark Trust is the UK member of the European Elasmobranch Association. As such, it collaborates with other bodies to achieve its aims in British, European and international waters. These include commercial fishermen, recreational sea anglers, divers, yachtsmen, and all those who want to ensure the future survival of these fascinating but threatened animals. For more info rmation on the Shark Trust visit www.sharktrust.org.

Source: Project AWARE


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