17/18 Moo 1, Koh Tao Suratthani, 84360 Thailand         Info @ Big Blue Conservation        +66 (0) 077 456 179

Big Blue Conservation - Sightings

A rare white humpback whale calf has been spotted near Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Believed to be just a few weeks old, the 12ft calf was seen at Cid Harbour in the famous reef's Whitsunday Islands area by a family out in the bay in their boat. White whales are highly unusual with only 10 to 15 believed to exist among up to 15,000 living along Australia's east coast. Wayne Fewings was diving in the harbour when he spotted the animal surfacing and described the sighting as a 'once in a lifetime experience'. He said: 'We were just drifting when I noticed the smaller whale in the pod was white. I couldn't believe my eyes. 'Then the white calf approached my boat, seeming to want to check us out. I was just so amazed at seeing this animal, it made me think how truly astounding the Great Barrier Reef is.' The calf's parents may both have been dark humpbacks carrying a recessive white whale gene, but Great Barrier Reef official Mark Read said one may also have been white themselves.


     
That raises speculation that the calf could be the offspring of famous white humpback Migaloo. Migaloo - the name is an Aboriginal word meaning 'whitefella' - is the world's best-known all-white humpback and has built up a loyal following in Australia since first being sighted in 1991. Humpback whales are currently on their southern migration, and the baby will be feeding heavily from its mother as it lays down fat stores for the 'cold Antarctic waters'. Its sex was unknown and Mr Read said there were no plans to give the young mammal a name of its own. Australia's east coast humpback population has been brought back from the brink of extinction following the halting of whaling in the early 1960s.

Yellow saddle goatfish work together to catch their dinner, according to scientists. When an individual chases its prey around a coral formation, others gather around to block escape routes. The unusual co-ordinated behaviour was observed by scientists in the Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt. Yellow saddle goatfish (Parupeneus cyclostomus) are tropical fish found in the Indo-Pacific region, an area that is thought to be home some of the world's richest marine life. They have long whisker-like "barbels" protruding from their mouths, which they use to detect the movements of prey in coral reefs.

         

"The evidence is growing and growing that fish can show astonishing behaviours” Prof Redouan Bshary, University of Neuchatel, Switzerland The fish are known to live in groups that are based on their size rather than family relationships, with similarly sized fish forming groups. When a single goatfish chased its prey, the rest of the group worked together as a team to ensure its success: "Blockers" spread out across the coral formation to prevent the prey from escaping while the "chaser" pursued its target. Similar behaviour has only been identified in a handful of species - primarily mammals including chimpanzees, orcas, lions and dolphins, but also birds. Very few fish have been seen to "work together". If you fancy seeing this for yourself, Koh Tao has many goat fish species, including the Indian.

Another day, another 4 turtles! Adult hawksbill sea turtles have been known to grow up to 1 m in length, weighing around 80kgs on average. The heaviest hawksbill ever captured was measured to be 127 kgs. The hawksbill sea turtle has several characteristics that distinguish it from other sea turtle species. Its elongated, tapered head ends in a beak-like mouth (from which its common name is derived), and its beak is more sharply pronounced and hooked than others. The hawksbill's arms have two visible claws on each flipper. Big Blue had the great pleasure to spend our night dive (!) with one juvenile hawksbill turtle last night, and then we were greated by another 2 at Hin Wong Pinnacle this morning. And as if that was not enough - there was another hawksbill turtle at our coral nursery just an hour ago! Haven't seen one yet? Then come diving with Big Blue!

 

Here on Koh Tao we are lucky having the chance to dive with whale sharks every other day. Only about 1% of the Earth’s population has ever seen a whale shark, let alone been diving with one! A whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the biggest shark AND the biggest fish on the planet. It’s not a whale, even though the name might fool you! They are easily identified with their light colored dots on darker skin and a constant massive grin. Its mouth can be up to 2 meters across, has about 8,000 tiny teeth and still they only feed on plankton and the occasional small fish. Whale sharks are filter feeders and for every pound the whale shark weighs it needs 20 pounds of plankton to fill up! Even though their skin is really thick (up to 17 cm) they don’t like to be touched and here at Big Blue we go by the Divers Etiquette Whale Shark Code and always leave at least 3-4 meters between us divers and the whale shark. There is still a lot we don’t know about these beautiful creatures and it is especially hard trying to define their maximum size, age and weight! Stories have been told about 21 meter long giants but the largest verified whale shark was caught in Pakistan in 1947. That whale shark was 12.65 meters and weighed over 15 tons!

       
     
Whale sharks are known to be solitary creatures but in 2009 of the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico over 420 whale sharks were sighted at the same time. Sadly, whale sharks are still kept in aquariums all over the world. What scientists do know is that these animals like their space. Still, four whale sharks are being kept in one tank that is 10 meters deep, 35 meters wide and 27 meters long and holds the equivalent of 3 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water which makes it a big tank but no way near big enough… Luckily most of us prefer them in the wild, where they belong! If you haven’t seen one yet – well, sign up to go diving with the best dive master & instructor team on Koh Tao, next whale shark could be seen tomorrow so don’t miss out!

With its eight thin tentacles, four thicker "arms" and purplish mushroom-shaped bell, the Pelagia noctiluca or mauve stinger has become a regular, unwanted feature of the Côte d'Azur.
Despite the use of protective anti-jellyfish nets, thousands of the ancient organisms, whose population is thriving thanks to overfishing and global warming, still make it into swimming areas and are washing up onto Riviera beaches. Contact with its hairlike tentacles that can reach three metres in length causes nettle-like burns that take three days to clear and can provoke asthma and allergic attacks, and in rare cases heart failure.
To help swimmers avoid being ensnared in shoals of the poisonous invertebrates, the oceanological laboratory of Villefranche-Sur-Mer is launching a 48-hour internet jellyfish forecast.
"We're offering a five-point probability rating going from zero (no risk) to five (maximum jelly alert) on beaches of the Alpes-Maritimes region," Lars Sternmann, one of ten scientists working on the project told Le Parisien.
Biologists say their proliferation is in part down to climate change and rising water temperatures, but also a decline in its only real predators – turtles and tuna. The species, which glows in the dark (!!), has also benefited from rising plankton levels and pollution-related nutrients.
All the oceans of the planet have seen rising numbers, leading to long-term fears of a "jellification of the oceans," according to Jacqueline Goy, a medusa specialist at the oceanographic institute of Paris.
Source: Henry Samuel, The Telegraph