Big Blue Conservation - Uncategorised

A very exciting event last week as a pod of 20 - 30 pilot whales were spotted near Shark Island on Koh Tao. These infrequent visitor are not currently on the IUCN Red List of endangered species due to lack of data, but the killing of pilot whales has been carried out on Faroue, with around 950 pilot whales Globicephala melaena) killed annually, mainly during the summer. The hunts, called "grindadráp" in Farouese, or in English 'The Grind', are non-commercial and are organized on a community level; anyone can participate. The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats. The boats then drive the pilot whales slowly into a bay where the beach themselves and suffocate.

           

Most Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their culture and history, but many oppose the mass killin event. The animals are trapped in the shallow waters where the islanders gaff the marine mammals with spears and slaughter them by severing the whales' spines with long knives. The whales are stoned, speared, stabbed, slashed, and clubbed by people in a festive atmosphere. This slaughter is particularly gruesome since the killing is conducted as a community sporting event with young children often participating in the killing of the visibly and audibly terrified whales.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has recently sent their vessels off to the Faroe Islands to help rescue the pilot whales, but they are now reporting that 60 of these magnificent creatures have already been killed so far this year. By arriving on mass at the shores of the Faroe Islands the anti-whalers hope to bring an end to the killing, as well as creating some controversy over the issue in Denmark where many people are unaware of the whale slaying that is happening on Danish territory. They are also hoping to bring the attention of the world to the slaughter of whales on these tiny islands in the subarctic.

Previously, all the grey waste water from the island flowed past the entrance to Big Blue along what we have aptly named the "Poo-nama" canal and straight out to sea without being cleaned or treated. Thanks to Big Blue Conservation, we have successfully built a constructed wetland!
With the help of Save Koh Tao and Wetlands International, we designed a constructed wetland to help purify this water, so that when it flows out to sea, it is not causing as much harm to the environment. Using Cattail reeds, Vetiver grass and Mangrove trees, alot of the nutrients which are harmful to the surrounding reefs will be removed. Additionally, we have installed an air pump to help oxygenate the water. This is part of Big Blue's on going effort to help minimise the impact the high level of tourism has on our beautiful island. So that bad smelling, disgusting looking canal will no longer be known as the "Poo-nama" canal, and shall now be known as beautiful wetland river!
A big thanks to all who helped, we couldn't have completed it without you. Watch this space for pictures of the wetland in all its clean glory in a month

                       

A recent study by Big Blue Conservation has revealed that there is hope for some populations of corals that suffer bleaching events, as Koh Tao experienced in 2010. Dr. Bert Hoeksema of NCB Naturalis, Netherlands, Dr. Thamasak Yeemin of Ramkhamhaeng University, Bangkok, and Big Blue Conservation's Jennifer Matthews followed the recovery of mushroom corals after the 2010 mass bleaching event, and found that when temperatures had returned to normal, Koh Tao’s mushroom coral fauna appeared to have recovered and no trace of bleaching was visible anymore! Great news for our mushroom corals, and for coral reefs in the face of climate change! If you fancy reading the article, published in the Phuket Marine Biology journal, click on our publications page in the Eco Projects section.

 

The Koh Tao Shark Survey enjoyed it's first nursery success today - we were so excited to receive a call from the local fishermen we are working with early this morning telling us they had accidentally caught 3 blue spotted rays last night. We went over there to collect them and brought them back to our nursery tanks. Next,  we made sure they were healthy and not damaged from the fishing nets, then we took measurements and data from the rays (2 males and one very small female!) and took photographs of the spot pattern on their upper body, which is specific to each individual ray and can be used to identify them. We can now use this data to track the ray populations, especially if they are re-sighted. A few hours after they were originally caught, they were released back into the water, where they happily swam straight under some rocks.

             

                       

Just when we thought the day couldn't have been better, late on during a dive at our adopted reef, we saw the small female hiding underneath our coral nursery!
The sharks had been caught by the fishermen and would have suffer a BBQ death if it had not been this project and the fishermen who support it. It's great to see the project working, with locals getting involved and some happy rays as a result. Stay tuned for more updates on our Koh Tao Shark Survey efforts.