Recipe for successful fieldwork in Taiwanese waters
- 2 guiding hands of Dr. I.C. Liao
- 20+ helping hands from Taiwan Fisheries Research Institute
(TFRI) staff members, especially Mr. Stephen Huang
- 1-3 satisfied government officials
- 60+ helping hands from fishermen and set net operators
in Hua Lien
- 3-5 experienced SCUBA divers
- Numerous sunfish of good size and health
- 1-50 press representatives to spread the word
- 1 or more strong blessings from Matsu
In December 2000, under the guidance of Dr. I. C." Liao,
the international team of Drs. Tierney Thys, Heidi Dewar
and Hong Young Yan successfully began research to document
the behavior of giant ocean sunfish in Taiwanese waters."
This project would never have been possible without the encouragement
and enthusiastic support of Dr. Liao and the tireless assistance
of the Taiwan Fisheries Research Institute (TFRI) staff,
especially Mr. Stephen Huang.
"From the moment of landing in Taipei, we were welcomed
with open arms. We became an instant team working together
towards a common goal. International boundaries dissolved
and we found we had not only discovered reliable and competent
collaborators but also long-lasting friends."
Our fieldwork involved a number of complications. Firstly,
we met with three government officials who needed to inspect
our pop-off satellite archival tags before any fieldwork
could take place. Following this, we had to travel from Taipei
to Hua Lien--a transit thankfully made possible by Dr. Liao's
gracious assistance." After reaching the coast and partaking
of a sumptuous feast (one of many to come) we met with local
fishermen to learn of their experiences with sunfish and
ask permission to sample their catch as well as tag and release
several of their valued commodities. All the fishermen hold
the greatest amount of respect and admiration for Dr. Liao
and TFRI so our demanding task was made far simpler than
could have ever been imagined.
As luck would have it, many molas had been recently caught
in the set nets. We were able to procure numerous tissue
samples for later genetic analysis at the fish market shortly
after arriving in Hua Lien." A true bonanza!
Early the next morning, we headed to the docks and secured
the necessary permits." Accompanied by an expert dive crew,
organized by Dr. Yan beforehand and headed by Mr. Anthony
Kuo, we made our way to the set nets, picking up more crew
along the way. Before the day was out, we had successfully
tagged our sunfish, learned an enormous amount from the fishermen
and made tremendous progress towards achieving our goals.
The remainder of our trip involved flying to the other side
of Taiwan and tagging a beloved baby whale shark named Junior,
a sweet animal that had been hosted by the compassionate
staff at the Penghu Aquarium of TFRI." This trip revealed
to us the tremendous impact Dr. Liao has had on helping to
inspire conservation in the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese.
The impressive Penghu Aquarium was a beautiful sight to behold.
On a second trip to Taiwan the following year, accompanied
by Dr. Hong Young Yan, Dr. Thys was able to train the staff
at the Penghu aquarium to deploy the satellite tags themselves.
Despite his heavily loaded schedule, Dr. Liao was able to
accompany us through the whole field trip. What impressed
us the most was we again saw how his wide name recognition
in Taiwan helped our project. For instance, the chief of
Hua-Lien Fishermen Association allowed us free access to
his set nets for study use and deliberately altered his operation
schedule to fit our needs. The proprietor of a local diving
shop refused to charge us rental fee of air tanks because
of Dr. Liao paid a visit to his shop which he considered
a great honor."
As our data begins to flow in, we look forward to continued
collaborations with Dr. Liao and the stream of publications
still to come." We commend him on his long and illustrious
career with TRFI and extend many congratulations on a job
well done! We feel extremely honored to have had the opportunity
to work with him.