Tagging Whale Sharks Like Pet Pooches
The “unique habit” of whale sharks that converge to feed from fishing nets in Indonesia has allowed them to be tagged with low-cost technology usually used on pets, conservationists said on Tuesday.
Experts in June injected tiny pill-sized radio transmitters beneath the skin of 30 whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay in Papua, conservation group WWF said.
And it was only made possible because the giant animals, which measure up to 13.7 meters, were gathered to feed on fish caught in fishermen’s nets, WWF Indonesia project leader Beny Ahadian Noor said.
“Radio-frequency identification tags have been used on pets such as dogs, but this is the first time on whale sharks,” Noor said. Researchers would usually use a more sophisticated satellite method, at $4,000 a tag. But Noor said each radio-frequency tag used in Cenderawasih Bay cost only $4.
Mark Erdmann, a marine biologist who joined the expedition, said, “What makes this tagging possible in Cenderawasih Bay is the unique habit this population has of aggregating at … fishing platforms to feast upon the small silverside baitfish that the fishers are catching.”
Whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, are classified as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.