The Adventure begins…

Follow the progress of the fieldwork mission with the team blog !

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Port Sudan - 17/10/2012 - written by Steven Kessel

We have finally made it, we are sitting here on Don Questo, a dive boat moored in Port Sudan. Lorenzo, the captain, owner and long time contributor to the Cousteau Divers Aware of Sharks (DAS) program, has kindly agreed to let us stay on the boat for the next few days while we take care of logistics in Port Sudan. We arrived yesterday after spending the past week in Dubai. We were attending the ‘Shark Conservation in Arabia Workshop’ arranged by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Sharkquest Arabia. We were invited there to present information on the DAS program and the upcoming field research in Sudan.

We fell that the workshop was a great success. It was really great to learn more about other countries in the region, their shark fishing activities and their management/conservation efforts. All the delegates gave very good presentations and all seem open to improving the status of shark and ray conservation in their countries. Sudan was commended for their efforts in marine conservation and the proactive position on allowing us to begin our focused research in their waters. Our presentation on our Sudanese research project was extremely well received and we were approach by several delegates after to enquire more about our techniques and potential future regional collaborations.

Following the workshop we spent the next few days in Dubai making last minute arrangements for the trip. We drove to Abu Dhabi for a meeting with Madam Cousteau to discuss the upcoming project. We made a visit to the Dubai mall to buy some last minute items and to see the shark tank there at the Dubai Aquarium. It has the world’s largest acrylic viewing window and an impressive collection of several shark and ray species. We had an ordeal trying to arrange for our extra baggage from Dubai to Port Sudan, which involved us driving round to several cargo areas and free-zones around the airport. In the end we were able to take the equipment, for a cost of course. Yesterday we flew from Dubai to Port Sudan. The flight was good but we had some trouble clearing one of the bags through customs. It seems that some out our equipment we use to study the sharks drew some unwanted attention. However, Nigel was able to clear up the confusion and walk away with the bag an all its contents intact. We arrived at the dock Port Sudan to find that one of the permission papers allowing us to board the boat had not arrived in time, so we found a room at the Palace Hotel. It was actually a step up from our airport hotel in Dubai as the toilet actually flushed!

Today we met with our fixer Mohammed Younis, he is very on the ball and has made all the necessary arrangements to allow us to begin our field work. We met with the Minister of Environment and Tourism to discuss the project and began the process of obtaining permission to travel by land to Mohamed Qol (the fishing village where the first section of our field work to study manta rays will take place from). Our permission to board the vessel arrived today so now we find ourselves here on Don Questo. Tomorrow we have a meeting in the morning to discuss our research with a local TV crew. We then have meetings with more government officials and interested parties about our research. Finally we will be making the last of the preparation for the trip to Mohamed Qol, we hope to leave in two days. After years of preparations we are most definitely ready to get this focused shark and ray research truly underway.

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