In January 2006, mem
bers of the US mola team (Tierney Thys, Brett Hobson and Marina Hobson) traveled to Capetown, South Africa to assist Two Oceans Aquarium staff in satellite tagging two Mola mola as part of a PADI Project Aware Foundation grant awarded to Two Oceans.
During this visit Thys presented results from the 2004 South Africa tagging expedition where 2 Mola mola yielded strong datasets. The 2004 expedition was funded in part by National Geographic and a AAAS grant for Women’s International Science Collaboration. Thys also met with Samantha Petersen from Birdlife International. Petersen and her fisheries observers including Zoe McDonell have been recording large numbers of sunfish caught as bycatch in South Africa’s mid water trawling operations for horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus capensis). McDonell is currently writing up these data as part of her Masters thesis with the University of Capetown.
While the trip proved fruitful on many accounts, tagging proved difficult. Water temps were consistently low (hovering around 10 C) and winds were high. Only three sunfish were encountered during the search days of January 4th-10th and none of them proved taggable.. Tagging would have to wait until later in the year.
On March 10th, conditions proved perfect and the staff from Two Oceans took to the water. Water temps were between 12 and 13 C and two good sized mola were tagged by Mouille Point and Bantry Bay. The South African team this year was comprised of skipper Michael Farquar, divers Claire Thomas, Vince Calder, Timony Siebert, Gerhard Beukes, Kevin Olivier and Zaid Manquest, photographer Natasha Townsend and Patricio Garratti who lent vital shore support. Toshiki Matsuyama, Kentaro Amemiya and Kaoru Satoh from Tokyo Sealife Park also joined the fun as able assistants.
These tags are due to release on August 24th 2006. So stay tuned!