Ocean Organization Spotlight: The Watermen Project

Written by on December 4, 2013 in Marine Life, Sharks, Spotlight

Editor’s Note — This piece continues with our Ocean Organization Spotlight series. The series features all kinds of foundations and organizations working to protect the oceans and its inhabitants around the globe. See them all on our Ocean Organization Spotlight page.

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Watermen:
1. People who love the water and everything in the ocean so much that they would rather be in or on the water than on land.
2. Freedivers, sailors, surfers, divers, swimmers and people who enjoy the ocean in whatever way possible.

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Screen capture from Freedivers Tagging Great White Sharks. Image credit: The Watermen Project.

Screen capture from Freedivers Tagging Great White Sharks. Image credit: The Watermen Project.

The Watermen Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean conservation with a focus on sharks. The Watermen Project’s mission is for men and women who are passionate about the oceans to promote ocean preservation, conservation and education.

The organization actively contributes to scientific research aimed at protecting and conserving the marine environment, particularly research focusing on large marine species like sharks and whales.

“At this stage we partner with scientists and other organizations conducting research, pooling resources and skill sets,” explains William Winram, The Watermen Project Founder, in an email to MST. The Watermen assist scientists in photographing and tagging large marine animals by volunteering their breath-hold skills.

Why are breath-hold skills essential? Because The Watermen Project’s non-invasive approach is the least stressful experience for the animal. The Watermen photograph and tag sharks on a single breath of air, without the use of cages, protective devices, or loud scuba gear.

In many studies, the animals have to be captured or held next to a boat in order to be fitted with a tag. This can be a stressful experience for the animal and a potentially dangerous one for the researcher. Instead, the Watermen use a modified speargun to tag the animals from a short distance. In the case of sharks, they aim for the area next to the dorsal fin where the tag will be secure without harming the shark. The goal of this approach is to resepct the animal and minimize the level of intrusion.

In the following video you can see the whole process. You’ll notice that the shark gets a little startled when its hit with the tag, but Winram assures us that the divers are not in any danger. “To date we have never had a shark react negatively,” he says.

The video shows the non-invasive tagging method used while conducting great white shark research around Guadalupe Island. Check it out:

Screen capture from Freedivers Tagging Great White Sharks. Image credit: The Watermen Project.

Screen capture from Freedivers Tagging Great White Sharks. Image credit: The Watermen Project.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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