the mola team has been tagging ocean sunfish Mola mola in Japan--strengthening
our collaboration with colleagues from Kamogawa Sea World and the
fishermen of the Fisheries Cooperative Association of Kamogawa.
Out of all the mola tagging efforts worldwide, this partnership
has undeniably proven the most fruitful. We have deployed 15 tags
in total. (10 have reported, 3 failed and two were released in
In April 2005, we were able to affix onto a mola
dorsal fin the first ever real-time position reporting tag (called
a SPOT tag-Smart Position Only Transmitting tag). We tracked
its whereabouts (albeit quite sparingly) and while we only received
a few location fixes, we demonstrated that a mola fin mount tag
was a feasible endeavor with a bit more fine-tuning.
In March 06 we put this idea to
the test in Japan and are thrilled to report that we successfully
deployed 2 real time SPLASH tags provided by John O'Sullivan of
the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The beauty of these tags is that, like
the old SPOT tags, they can report each time they clear the surface.
Plus they report not only position but also temperature and depth.
Both of the SPLASH tagged molas
were double tagged with Mk10 PATs (provided by Acadia Wildlife
Preserve Inc.). The mk10 PATs archive temp, depth and location
data based on light levels and, upon release from the fish, upload
these stored data to satellite which are then relayed to us.
When the PATs were released later in the year, we were be able
to compare the acquired SPLASH data with the archival data and
see how well they matched up. For more details on these tags visit
Chuck Farwell (Monterey Bay Aquarium) attached
the tags with our mola geneticist Steve Karl (University of Hawaii,
Manoa) and the extremely competent Kamogawa staff, particularly
Toshiyuki Nakatsubo, while Tierney Thys (Sea Studios Foundation)
and her 8.5 month old daughter, Marina, lent shore support and
photo-documented the effort.
The tagged fish were released on the same day,
March 15th 2006, off Kamogawa with the help of the Fisheries Cooperative
Association of Kamogawa. Water temps were 17.6 C, the seas were
calm and the weather was lovely. We were quite lucky as the weather
picked up the following day and squalls hammered the coastline.
This was a momentous tagging expedition for multiple
reasons. Not only did we deploy SPLASH tags on molas for the first
time but we also had the good fortune of being able to partner
with Dr. Dhugal Lindsay from JAMSTEC-the Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth
Science and Technology. Dr. Lindsay conducts regular biological
surveys along the Kuroshio current. For this expedition, we coordinated
our two schedules so that he could sample in the same water masses
as our tagged molas--at least for a short time. Using a state of
the art visual plankton tow equipped with high definition video,
he sampled not only the delicate critters living in these waters
but also measured salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen. Plus
he used an Acoustic Doppler Current meter to get depth, temperature
and salinity, and current speeds and directions for the upper 1200m.
These data should provide tremendous insight into
what is motivating the movements of these behemoth bony fish.
Lastly, the wee Marina (Tierney's 8.5 month old
daughter) accompanied the expedition so a new generation of potential
ocean scientists has already received some valuable field experience.
To see the mola and their whereabouts please click
on the link below:
Japan Mola Tagging Team Members
US members (past and present)
C. Farwell, T. Thys, H. Dewar, S. Karl, E. Freund, J. O'Sullivan
Japan members (past and present)
Kamogawa Sea World--T. Tobayama, M. Soichi, Y. Kondo,Y. Okada,
Y. Maeda, T. Nakatsubo, K. Mori, A. Osawa, Y. Saito O. Arai,
Fisheries Cooperative Association of Kamogawa--T. Sakamoto, Y.
Watanabe and the fishermen