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Whale Sharks St Helena

St Helena National Trust Receives £150k Funding for Whale Shark Research

The St Helena National Trust, through the Blue Marine Foundation, have secured £150k from NEX Giving Day to fund the island’s whale shark research.

The Trust’s Marine Project Manager, Beth Taylor, submitted a proposal earlier this year focused on the question, why do large male and female whale sharks visit St Helena each year? A large number of charities bid for this funding and six of them, including the Blue Marine Foundation, were awarded £75k.

Following the proposals, the six charities were invited to present in London. Beth was joined by Simon Le Bon and the Blue Marine Team to pitch their project to the room:

St Helena is the only place in the World where large aggregations of mature males and females can be found at the same time, and according to Professor Al Dove of Georgia Aquarium, the island is an important place for their breeding cycle and we need to understand precisely how and why.

 

As a result of their presentation, NEX Giving Day awarded an additional £75k funding to the team, giving the island a total of £150k for whale shark research. This funding will be used for a range of activities including:

  • Purchase of 360-degree underwater cameras, which will be positioned around St Helena with the aim of recording the elusive mating and breeding behaviour of St Helena’s incredible whale sharks.
  • Purchase of satellite tags that enable the team to survey the whale sharks deeper than ever before.
  • Purchase of aerial drones to enable us to find and survey the whale sharks from above.
  • Creation of the world’s first global whale shark mobile phone APP, which can help identify and store all the global whale shark information.
  • Delivery of education and engagement, to better communicate the St Helena whale shark story, both on-island and internationally.
  • Most importantly, employment of more Saints within the Trust to run the project.

 

Leigh Morris, St Helena National Trust Marine Project Consultant, said:

“The £150k funding gives St Helena a genuine and wonderful opportunity to capture never-before-seen whale shark breeding behaviour and create a real eureka moment for marine science, St Helena, and the world’s largest and most iconic fish.”


 

Each year from January to March those on St Helena are treated to the incredible opportunity to swim with whale sharks, which resulted in the island voting for ‘swimming with whale sharks’ as one of the 7 Wonders.

In an interview with Dr Alistair Dove of the Georgia Aquarium last year, he said:

“The whale sharks of St Helena are bigger than those seen in coastal aggregation sites, and they’re a good mix of adult males and females, whereas most other places have groups dominated by juvenile males.  This information, combined with a couple of eyewitness accounts of mating behaviour around the island, leads us to believe that St Helena may play an important role in breeding for this species. That is critically important because we haven’t seen evidence of breeding from anywhere else.”

Be sure to follow The SHNT Marine Team on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

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