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Lubombo TFCA, Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve

A ‘fishy’ new World Record

A tagged Tiger Shark

A Tiger Shark called Sereia has been recorded as undertaking the longest confirmed migration for the species on record. Sereia swam 6 500 km from Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (PPMR), in Mozambique, to an area offshore of the coast of Singapore.

The 3.15m long mature female was tagged in November 2018 in PPMR by scientists of the Biopixel Oceans Foundation and the Oceanographic Research Institute. Her most recent satellite ping was May 23rd, 2020 which showed her swimming zig zag patterns up and down the NinetyEast ocean ridge, which is the longest and straightest ocean ridge in the world. This distance is further than the entire width of the Atlantic Ocean where most of the previous tiger shark research has been conducted. Since the tiger shark tag is still pinging along the cost of Singapore, researchers hope the shark will continue across the Indian Ocean to Indonesia.

Video courtesy: OCEARCH, www.OCEARCH.org

Video courtesy: OCEARCH, www.OCEARCH.org

The migration of this tiger shark is significant because it confirms tiger sharks can cross the Indian Ocean, supporting what scientists know from population genetics in the region. Prior to starting the project, very little was known about the residency patterns and migration dynamics of tiger sharks across this region.

Spectacular marine life

Based on evidence from a study conducted in April 2016 by Dr. Ryan Daly, it is apparent that the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, in South Africa, and the adjacent Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, in Mozambique – vital components of the Ponta do Ouro – Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area – may constitute some of the most important habitat for tiger sharks in the south-west Indian Ocean.

 

Ponta do Ouro – Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) – that lies within the larger Lubombo TFCA – is a key area for spawning fish aggregations and attracts a wide diversity of top ocean predators such as Bull and Tiger Sharks, that rely on its pristine marine ecosystem.

This area is an important migration corridor and a primary forage habitat for Whale Shark and Manta Ray. It is also home to a unique aggregation of adult hammerhead sharks that have been observed in schools of approximately 50 to 200 on the reefs about 3 km off the coast of the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve. This unique aggregation should be considered a significant component of the population in the southwest Indian Ocean.

Photo: Nico Grundlingh

In addition to being a haven for tiger sharks, PPMR is also home to a variety of marine fauna and flora, from a myriad of tropical fish, humpback whales, endangered sea turtles, dolphins and dugongs, to healthy seagrass beds and a kaleidoscope of coral reefs.

Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, together with the Maputo Special Reserve, is co-managed by the National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) in partnership with the Peace Parks Foundation, which has been providing technical and financial support for the development of conservation activities and tourism development.

A vital habitat protected

The breath-taking Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve protects some of the African coastline’s most spectacular marine life.

In this reserve, nobody drives on the beach except for the marine guards who patrol the 100km stretch of coastline daily, whilst fishing and tourism activities are regulated – resulting in a significant reduction in impact on the reefs and marine life. There is also close collaboration with local communities and businesses that work with the reserve management to minimise the impact of infrastructure and activities along the coastline.

In December 2019, conservation efforts received a significant boost when President Filipe Nyusi officially launched the Maputo Environmental Protected Area (EPA) – extending the PPMR’s ocean protection zone from 3 to 18 nautical miles.

Marine guards make sure that all permits are in order and activities are executed according to conservation regulations.

Previously, large commercial fishing trawlers could come very close to the Mozambique coast, just outside the protection zone, and catch large, unsustainable quantities of fish, with the PPMR team left with no legal discourse to intervene. The EPA now allows protection services to put a stop to these practices, which will greatly benefit not only fish species, such as giant trevally that spawn in this region, but also those marine animals that frequently get pulled in as bycatch, such as sea turtles and sharks.

We would like to thank Dr Ryan Daly for sharing the data and the pictures.

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