Sorong, Jubi – A total of 26 whale sharks in Cendrawasih Bay National Park, West Papua were assessed by health scientists and experts from United States from 25 July to 5 August 2017.
The release revealed that in addition to health checks, the researchers also managed to install 7 satellite markers and 4 acoustic markers on whale sharks.
The progress of this study has significant implications for investigating the health mysteries surrounding whale sharks, including the potential impacts of tourism as well as other human interactions on the health of whale sharks.
This can provide more information in the development of future conservation policies, to protect and maintain the stability of the whale population in Indonesia specifically in Cendrawasih Bay National Park, West Papua.
Health research is fairly difficult, even initially considered almost impossible to implement, because until now researchers have not found a way to condition whale sharks in a controlled environment for further sampling.
But in 2014, teams from Cendrawasih Bay National Park (BBTNTC), UNIPA, KKP, and CI Indonesia found that whale sharks in the Bay, often caught unintentionally by chart fishermen nets, appear to be quite calm when caught and often just silent at the bottom of the net waiting to be issued.
This phenomenon is used by research teams from CI Indonesia to install satellite markers while taking samples necessary for health assessment of whale sharks.
“The unique situation in Cendrawasih Bay gives researchers unprecedented opportunities, which are designed to provide detailed information on the ecosystem and research impacts that have been done on the welfare of whale sharks,
“This health research on wild whale sharks is the first time conducted in the world, so the data obtained will be the reference of all researchers in the world including reference to the Indonesian government in the management of eco-tourism on sustainable whale sharks in a way that is beneficial to coastal communities without adversely affecting the welfare of the people,” explained Ketut Putra, Vice President Conservation International Indonesia.
Related research that has been implemented, according to Dr. Selvy Tebay, vice rector of UNIPA welfare field who is also a researcher of fishery field, said that the research of whale shark health aspect is the first research conducted by UNIPA together with partners. While other studies such as tagging and development of whale shark tours have been done.
“Hopefully, of course through this health research, UNIPA can develop expertise capacity in marine conservation of species including the importance of health science of whale sharks to support the management of these species in Indonesia,” said Selvy Tebay.
The research itself is collaboration between the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP), Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), Central Park of Cendrawasih Bay (BBTNTC), University of Papua (UNIPA), Conservation International (CI) and Georgia Aquarium – America Union. (*)