China uses SPLASH to track endangered sharks

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For the first time on the mainland, fishery officials are using SPLASH, a state-of-the-art navigation technology, to tag and track two whale sharks – an endangered species and the world’s largest mammal.

The two sharks were released Monday at Sanya, Hainan province.

The SPLASH navigation technology is one of the most accurate and innovative techniques in the world to conserve marine animals, said David Rowat, chairman of Marine Conservation Society in Seychelles and an expert in marine conservation.

SPLASH, a technique from the United States, includes sensors to measure depth, temperature and light levels and can provide locations within a radius of 350 m.

Speaking at the whale-releasing ceremony, Rowat said that he has guided the project initiated by the Fishery and Fishing Harbor Administration of the South China Sea and mounted the sophisticated GPS tags on the two whale sharks, which will help provide accurate data to monitor the species and the environment affecting them.

Whale sharks are usually more than 10 m long and formerly targeted by commercial fisheries for their soft white meat, thick skin, and delicate bone, he said.

One of the tagged sharks will be monitored for six months, and the other for 12 months. Data will be collected and analyzed through software operations to find ways to protect the species.

“I believe that this SPLASH tracking technique will surely lead to another as surveys on marine conservation is a crucial investment to the sustainable future of China and to the world as a whole,” Rowat said.

“Currently, many countries and regions are over-utilizing sea resources not in a sustainable way, in ignorance of the strength of the ecosystem,” Rowat said.

Rowat applauded the mainland’s effort to use the innovative technology. Officials yesterday also released some 7 million baby fish to honor the 5th anniversary of the Beibu Bay Demarcation Agreement, and seeks to protect the marine animals there.

The fishing, selling and trading of whale sharks for commercial purposes is prohibited on the mainland as the whale shark is officially categorized as endangered and is therefore protected.

Whale shark fishing has also been banned in countries and regions such as the Philippines, India and Taiwan.

Source: China Daily