Author Archives: whalesharks

Whaleshark Expedition Pictures

As promised here are some pictures of the whale shark tagging expedition 2009. This is the microlight.


This is the flight crew. Alexis is the pilot and he is in the middle, his girlfriend Emma and Chris the cameraman on either side of him. The team fly for 3 – 4 hours per day and do an amazing job helping us!


This is the boat we used called Melia (daughter of Neptune). It belongs to Southern Cross Scuba. SXS has several dive bases, one of which is at Aqualand Watersports Centre next to Pinewood Village Hotel on Galu Kinondo beach where we meet each morning at 10am.


And here are the lucky people swimming with the biggest fish on the planet! An experience you will never forget 🙂


We have circled the shark for you. They are not as easy to spot as you think! Best is when they are swimming over a sandy patch like in the picture here.


Meet Bumble, adopted by Peter and Philipa Gibbon, Kenya’s first acoustically tagged shark. May he bumble on peacefully for many years to come and enjoy a long and happy life.

Tagging Expedition Day 3

Another cracking day with 3 sightings and 1 tagged. This shark was also adopted and sponsored by Peter and Philipa Gibbon last year. I will let you know what the name is!!

I have wonderful sponsors lined up for our 3rd tag and 4th tag, after which it’s anybodys game so please help us by sponsoring a shark! Professor Dan Reinstein and the London Vision Clinic have sponsored the next tag. Thank you so much Professor Dan! And Camp Kenya and Camps International have sponsored the 4th acoustic tag we put out. Thank you so much Camps!

Pictures to follow when the expedition team returns later and I get a chance to download them 🙂 Wanted to share the good news with you immediately!

Bumble The Whaleshark

The whale shark adopted and sponsored by Peter and Philipa Gibbon is to be called Bumble. Many thanks again Peter and Philipa for your kind support! Bumble is Kenya’s first shark to be tagged with an acoustic tag.

Yesterday we didn’t see any sharks and I am just leaving now to see off the expedition of 20 Swedish students. We have to take 60 litres of petrol to the pilot and then organise and brief the expedition members down at Aqualand. It’s going to be a busy day.

Will keep you posted.


Expedition 2009 is off to a flying start. With 15 eager participants, a filmcrew from the Nation and a KWS team on board the anticipation was high as they all set off. Volker and I were both wide awake at 5am too excited to sleep.

I watched them set off wondering how the day would turn out. Whale sharks were spotted yesterday by divers and we have a microlight as air support (I can hear it droning overhead as I write this) so all the signs were good. But you never know! And I can never relax until I get the call from Volker –


Volker has just called me 🙂 Less than an hour into the first expedition they found a whale shark, everyone swam with it and it was tagged with Kenya’s first acoustic tag. This tag was sponsored by Philippa Gibbon (Gwili from the Colobus Trust’s mum). Philippa sponsored our first 2 acoustic tags as presents for Gwili’s dad and uncle.

So a BIG thank you to Philippa – her acoustic tag is finally deployed and well done to Volker and everyone on the expedition team today 🙂

Do you remember this mournful picture of Volker’s fins from the acoustic expedition we did in April last year? No sharks were spotted and Volker didn’t get a chance to even get in the water!


We are already a far cry from that and we’ve only just started!!!!!

Please donate and help us keep the expedition going.

Baby Dugong Caught In Net

Dugong find in Kiunga Marine National Reserve

The news filtered through the village, in disbelieving whispers that a dugong”nguva” had been caught in one of fishermen gillnets. There was a palpable but restrained sense of excitement in Kiunga village. Then fishermen confirmed and identified whose nets had caught the dugong there was a pandemonium in the otherwise sleepy village.   Everyone who could walk (mostly women and children) made a beeline to the fish landing site to wait for the mysterious and extremely rare dugong.  


The last time a dugong was sighted in Lamu archipelago was in 2003 and it was already dead. The exciting part is that the fisherman in whose gillnet the baby dugong was caught said that the mother was in the vicinity. This indicates that there is a breeding dugong population north of Kiunga Marine National Reserve   presenting and opportunity as well as a challenge to the conservation of these rare sea cow.   It interesting to note that although there have been anecdotal sightings of dugongs along the coast especially in Shimoni and Kisite areas at the southern coast of Kenya dugong foraging grounds have not been exactly identified unlike in Kiunga where the dugong was entangled in a gillnet set  across sea grass beds.


The dugong is a subject to many lores and stories in the Bajuni culture such as the mermaids (dugongs are part of the mermaid lore and its believed and practiced that any fishermen who brought a female dugong to shore must be taken to the mosque to swear that he did not have carnal knowledge with it – this was mainly due to similarity of a female dugong with a woman body)


Conservation implications

The baby dugong entangled in the gill net indicates that there is a breeding population in Kiunga Marine National Reserve.  This brings to fore the need to develop conservation strategy for this esoteric sea mammal using a wealth of indigenous knowledge that could disappear forever if not integrated into mainstream policy and research.First and foremost the population needs to be verified, set up code of conduct for identified dugong foraging sites and regular monitoring and research to glean more information and knowledge about these mammals at this part of the world – Western Indian Ocean


The greatest threat to dugongs is the loss of their habitats (sea grass) due siltation and increase in nutrients from human activitiesFishing nets also pose a threat to dugongs as clearly shown by the entangled baby dugong in Kiunga. 

Dugong facts  

Along with the manatee and the now-extinct Steller’s Sea Cow, the dugong makes up the order Sirenia.

Dugongs are usually found in shallow waters protected from large waves and storms. Dugongs live for approximately 70 years. Female dugongs first breed between the ages of six and 17 years old. They produce calves every 2.5-5 years with a gestation period of one year. Dugongs reach adult size between 9 and 17 years of age.

Dugongs have an average size of 2.4 to 3 meters and weigh between 231 to 500 kilograms; they can stay underwater for approximately 6 minutes. Dugongs graze on underwater grasses day and night. Dugongs spend much of their time alone or in pairs, though they are sometimes seen gathered in large herds of a hundred animals.Dugongs are sought after for their meat, oil, skin, bones, and teeth. Dugongs are now legally protected throughout most of their range, but their populations are still in a tenuous state. Dugong can be found in warm coastal waters from East Africa to Australia, including the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Pacific. Dugongs are also highly migratory.

 Internationally, dugong are listed on Appendix I of the Conservation of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (the CMS).

This report was sent to me by Mike Olendo, WWF Kiunga which is in Northern Kenya. We are all very excited because dugongs are so rare these days! We are hoping to put a programme together to see if we can tag some. It is encouraging to see that they are still around our coast. Thanks to Mike and his team for the write up and great photos!



Very exciting news for us here at the project!! The Wildlife Conservation Society has funded 2 satellite tow tags and they are going to put them on 2 Kenyan whale sharks during our expedition later this month! Thank you to Dr Rachel Graham and the WCS!


The satellite tow tags or splash tags are satellite tags attached to the whale sharks with a tether so that everytime the whale shark swims near the surface the tag can transmit data. We are able to track the shark’s movements in close to real time each time the tag breaks the surface. So rather than waiting for months or even years, we can find out where are sharks are going and can track their movements!


Rachel is coming with these tags as well as some acoustic tags in a few weeks. We first met Rachel at the 1st International Whale Shark Conference in Perth in 2005. We have kept in close contact over the years and met again in Mexico at the 2nd International Whale Shark Conference in Holbox in 2008. Rachel is the world wide acoustic tag specialist and has set up the MarineMeganet which will allow us to track our whale sharks world wide through a string of underwater acoustic arrays.

She has done a lot of work all over the world particularly in Belize where she lives and she has recently started along the East African coast in Madagascar. Now she will add Kenya to her list of acoustic tag areas.


This is a picture of some of the delegates at the conference in Mexico. That’s Rachel at the front waving, behind her is her husband Dan and 2nd born son Gabriel both of whom would come tagging with us in Mexico! Other luminaries in the picture include Brad Norman sitting opposit Rachel, Jennifer Smith (geneticist) and Mark Meekan. A very sunburnt Volker is behind Dan.

We are very excited that Rachel will be coming to Kenya in a few weeks to help us put out these tags. As always, any donations will go towards the expenses of the project. If anyone wants to adopt any of the sharks we tag let me know!! The 2 sharks that we tag with the splash tags will be called Obama and Michelle 🙂

Whale Shark Tagging Expedition 2009

Great news! The dates for this year’s first tagging expedition will be 20 February to 15 March. Come and join us and be part of our team. It costs Kenya shillings 12,000/- per person and all the money goes directly to the project in order to fund the expedition. We need your help and support but in return we will give you memories for a lifetime! Please tell everyone you can about the expedition! Thanks! Email me [email protected] to book your place on the boat!

Another Humpback Whale In A Net

Yet another humpback whale has been caught in one of the donated nets. How many more have to suffer and die before something is done about this?

Here you can see the fishing boats and net with the buoy around the whale.


Here is the poor whale all entangled.


And still entangled. You can just about make out one diver on the far side of the whale and another diver’s yellow alternate air source on the near side of the whale. Look how badly caught in the net this whale is.


We cannot believe that this is still happening. Not much came of our meeting with the organisation responsible for donating these nets. A representative sailed down here to meet us in his USD120,000 car (yes, you read right!!) and promised to do all sorts to help us but in the same breath was very quick to disclaim all responsibility and nothing has been done and no contact has been made. We have everything, literally everything, in place to put a stop to these nets and our fishermen are more than happy to give our alternative fishing methods a go. We can’t do it without funding. It would take a tiny percentage of the price of the abovementioned car for us to get going and really make a difference. The way these big organisations work makes me sick. How do they live with themselves or sleep at night? I expect they can sleep soundly because they are so far removed from the problem. They don’t have to rescue humpback whales or turtles or whale sharks. It makes me MAD.

The problem is that there is no proper canvassing of the real problem at grass roots level before assistance is given – just an overwhelming but misguided desire to help without thinking the options through. On top of that, once assistance is given, there is no management whatsoever so in the case of the fishermen they are just left to get on with using illegal nets and all marine life be damned. Instead of helping they have made everything ten times worse. The situation here is grim.

And it’s a crying shame – especially when there are small projects like ours ready and willing to help on the ground with all the necessary contacts, expertise and good community spirit to put long term solutions into play. We live here, alongside our fishermen, so we have a genuine and vested interest in them making a living and educating their children.

Happy new year guys, but not so happy for this poor whale.

Open Letter from Captain Paul Watson

Happy new year all!

As we start the New Year, let’s spare a thought for Paul Watson and his crew fighting the good fight! We wish them all the very best and every success in their endeavours.

An Open Letter from Captain Paul Watson from the Tasman Sea

Dear Friends,
We are finally on our way. My ship Steve Irwin and my crew left Brisbane in Queensland, Australia on December 4th. We made a brief stop in Newcastle in New South Wales to take on fuel and oil and departed on December 7th. We will make another brief stop in Hobart in Tasmania to top up the fuel tanks to allow us the maximum range when we head to the Ross Sea to intercept the Japanese whaling fleet.

We are under no illusion that this will be an easy campaign. Japan has budgeted 8 million dollars to oppose our efforts. What this means we have no idea. Will they send a gunboat? We don’t know for sure but they have said they will arrest us if we interfere with their illegal whaling operations. How they will do that is unknown. Will the fire on our ship or board our ship? – we don’t know. We just need to be prepared for all possibilities.

This is a four part campaign. Basically it gets down to “prepare, search, intercept, and stop”. 
We are prepared. We have improved the ship substantially since the last campaign.

We have a newly constructed helicopter deck and hanger, a completely over-hauled helicopter and in addition to our very experienced ex-military (U.S. Marine) pilot we also have a dedicated helicopter mechanic.

On deck we have a new hydraulic winch and two new fast interceptor boats.

We have three times the safety equipment required including immersion suits, survival suits, lifeboats, and EPIRB’s. We also have a medical doctor onboard and officers holding EMT certificates.

We have a master welder, master carpenter, and a crew of very experienced engineers led by our longtime Chief Engineer Charles Hutchings. We have qualified divers, communication techs, and navigators

We also have new tactics, new equipment and new ideas to help us with our mission.
And we have an excellent crew. There are 40 crew presently, plus an 8 person crew from Animal Planet to shoot the 2nd season of Whale Wars. A third of the crew is Australian and a third American with the remaining third composed of citizens from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Bermuda, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Hungary and Japan.

A third of the crew are women and half of the crew are returning veterans.
Upon leaving Hobart, we will begin the 2nd phase of the campaign – the search. This year the Japanese whaling fleet is operating in the Ross Sea and that is where we will be heading. It’s a long haul to get there and once there it’s a vast area to search but we will scour those remote frozen seas until we find them and once we do we will intercept them and hopefully before they kill too many whales.

There are quite a few differences between this campaign and our previous four voyages to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

This year we will be very much alone down there.

The new Australian government of Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett has reneged on their election promises and they will not have any ships in the Southern Ocean.. In fact the Australian Navy has been ordered into port – practically all of their ships and their officers and crew have been sent home for a two month vacation. There is not a single Australian government ship patrolling the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters despite the fact that the Japanese whaling fleet has been killing whales in direct contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling specifically forbidding the killing of whales in waters over which Australia has declared sovereignty.

Greenpeace will not be down in the Southern Ocean, despite raising millions of dollars for that express purpose. They have backed out primarily because they do not want to be associated with Sea Shepherd actions. Their excuse is that they need to address the trial of two of their Japanese activists. Greenpeace has the funding to do both and they certainly have the ships. The truth is that they have surrendered the Southern Oceans to the Japanese whaling fleet. They no longer have the stomach for confrontation.

The key to success with the Japanese whalers is persistence. We must never retreat or surrender the Southern Ocean Sanctuary to them. We must continue to undermine their profits and we must continue to expose their illegal activities to the world.

We must do this no matter what obstacles they throw up before us, no matter how violent they become, no matter what political, media and economic pressure they direct at us.

They can call us all the names in the world but they cannot deny the reality that they are targeting threatened and endangered whales in an established whale sanctuary in violation of the international moratorium on commercial whaling and in contempt of the Australian courts.

Sea Shepherd on the other hand has not, and is not violating international law. We have not injured anyone and we have not been charged with any crime. We are acting in accordance with the principles established in the United Nations World Charter for Nature by working to uphold and enforce international conservation law.

I have called this year’s campaign – Operation Musashi. This is in recognition of Miyamoto Musashi, who is to the Japanese what Robin Hood, Ned Kelly and Jesse James are to the British, the Australians and the Americans.

Aside from being an outlaw, Musashi was also a master strategist. I have incorporated his strategy of a twofold way of pen and sword which means the approaching of the problem through confrontation and communication or education.

Our physical interventions to stop the killing of whales is the sword and our participation in the television series Whale Wars is the pen.

And we also carry the most effective weapon ever designed – the camera.

What will happen this year?

It is hard to predict with certainty? Will we find the fleet? I am confident that we will. Will they react more violently this year than last year? We suspect that they will. Will we prevent them from killing whale? I am confident that we will be able to do so.

But as Musashi once observed with regard to strategy, we need to proceed towards the whaling fleet with absolute resolve, with courage and determination, focusing on the goal of saving the lives of as many whales as possible, undeterred by threats or physical violence, unconcerned with the consequences, prepared and cautious yet committed to a policy of no retreat and no surrender. We need to understand that when we say we are willing to risk our lives for the whales that it is not a meaningless slogan on a banner to us – it is what we do. We need to demonstrate to the world that there are human beings willing to risk all to protect diversity and the right of other species to live unmolested by the rapacious greed of humankind. We fight not just for the whales in those remote southern waters – we fight for the diversity of life and thus the future of our own kind upon this planet.

It will be a dramatic campaign and I will direct all my energies into ensuring that it will be an effective campaign and that the lives of whales will be saved.

I cannot tell you in words just how wonderful it is to have intervened for the whales in the seasons past. To know that at this moment, there are whales swimming freely in those lonely waters that would now be dead if not for our interventions. To know that so many baby whales have been brought into being because we were able to force the whalers to spare their mothers is a source of great happiness for me. I feel them out there, so alive and so aware, in those dark and cold waters and it is this connection that calms my soul with the purring hum of contentment in my heart. In truth to die in defense of life is the most honourable death I can think of and thus there can be no fear – only enlightenment and contentment.

And so it is southward that our bow is pointed and it is two thousand miles to the south amongst the ice bergs in the remote frozen south polar seas that we will once again skirmish with the killers of the gentle giants of the sea.

And for their sake and for the sake of our children we will prevail and we will drive these vicious killers from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and thus we will restore the integrity of the Sanctuary in a world where governments seem to have lost the meaning of the word “sanctuary.”

And so for the whales we sail on towards what I believe will be our most aggressive and most effective confrontation with the Japanese whalers ever.

Captain Paul Watson

Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (1977-

Co-Founder – The Greenpeace Foundation (1972)

Co-Founder – Greenpeace International (1979)

Director for Greenpeace (1972-1977)

Director of the Sierra Club USA (2003-2006)

Director of the Farley Mowat Institute

Working Partner with the Ecuadorian National Environmental Police and the Galapagos National Park

Master of the M/Y Steve Irwin

Master of the M/Y Farley Mowat

“Sail forth – steer for the deep waters only,

Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me,

For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,

And we risk the ship, ourselves and all”

                                                     – Walt Whitman

Tel: 360-370-5650

Fax: 360-370-5651

Cell: 310-701-3096


Address: P.O. Box 2616

Friday Harbor, Wa  98250



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At last some pictures of the incredible humpback whale rescue, courtesy of  Diving The Crab.

You can see how big the whale is compared to the diver in the front of the picture and the floating net with buoys. The buoys cause horrible drag which must have been really stressful for the whale.


It is hard to grasp how massive the whale really was.


She is able to breathe thankfully. Look how blue and clear the water is – the visibility was amazing.


You can see the air whooshing out her blow-hole as she breathes in relief!


She is slowly being cut free by this point – look how enormous she is.


She is almost free by this point and the rescue team get a thrashing as she starts to move around.


You can make out the tiny dot of a diver’s head amongst the foamy water.


Free at last she disappears with a flick of her great tail.


Free at last! Free at last! Free at last!


The team looks on in horror at the net. These are the nets causing all the damage and death. We have collected this net. One day we will collect each and every one of the donated nets and burn on the beach. That will be a great day. For the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed the pictures. It was a wondrous resuce and I truly hope the pictures will help everyone realise how serious this problem is and how important it is that we stop the use of these nets. Please help us start our fishermens’ education workshop on environmentally friendly fishing methods by donating. 

Thank you.