Off to sea
Sanganeb reef - 6/11/12 - written by Steven Kessel
We woke at the crack of dawn to set sail for Sanganeb. We got away smoothly and were soon outside of the port and heading for the reefs. The purpose of this week on the vessel is twofold; (i) we are aiming to place 18 monitors on the offshore reefs to try to reveal where that manta rays we tagged go when they leave the Dungonab marine reserve, and (ii) we are attempting to acoustically tag some grey reef sharks to initiate the focused shark component of the shark and ray project. During to the two and a half hour trip to Sanganeb we prepared all the monitor moorings, shark fishing rigs and dive gear. We arrived on schedule at 09:00 and everyone boarded the tenders for the first dive. One group consisting of Cisco (the dive guide on Elegante), Graham, Ben, Joey, Cam and Sparky. They were going to an orientation dive to see how all their gear was working at the deep depths of Sudan. Claudio, Nige and I set out with Mamoun to place the first acoustic mooring on the south plateau.
We entered the water and dove down to the plateau at about 30 m. We were searching for a suitable place for the mooring on the edge of the drop off. It took us a while and not due to a lack of suitable places to secure the mooring, the real problem was finding a location that wasn’t completely covered in corals. This is a great problem to have and is typical of the healthy reefs in Sudan. Sanganeb is a proposed UNESCO world heritage site and when you dive here it is easy to see why, SO much life at all levels of the food web. This was our first of the offshore moorings and everything did not go as planned, half of the mooring got away from us and floated back to the surface. Thus the mooring dive became two dives, but in the end the mooring looked great.
In the afternoon we split into three groups, Nige, Graham, Ben and I went to fish for grey reef sharks, Joey Sparky and Cam we to collect reef fish for genetic analysis and Claudio and Cisco went to put in the second acoustic mooring. We were fishing for four hours and didn’t even have a nibble. We are very much out of season for sharks, so we are not expecting to fill out tagging quota. We have a trip planned in season to tag the sharks, so any we can get tagged now will be a great bonus, but are not essential for the success of the project. There have been sharks seen here today, one dive group saw one on the first dive and the reef fish collection team also saw one, so we have not lost all hope and we are heading back out first thing in the morning. The others crews had success, both collecting fish genetics and pacing the second mooring. Tomorrow we will have an early start, fingers crossed for some sharks.