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Tubbataha takes on research and conservation training to strengthen citizen science on Elasmobranchs

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 23 (PNA) — Dive masters, operators, and other partners in the management of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) convened here Monday for the Elasmobranch (əˈ-lazmə-brangk) Research and Conservation Training which will start Tuesday.

Elasmobranch is “a subclass of Chondrichthyes, or cartilaginous fish that includes the sharks (Selachii) and the rays and skates (Batoidea), which resemble the true fishes in external form, but differ from them so widely in structure that they are placed in a class by themselves.”

According to a media release posted at the website of the TRNP, LAMAVE or the Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines will provide the technical expertise for the research and conservation training, while Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI) the funding, and the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) the organization of event.

“The activity, which will run until the 25th of February, will be a mixture of academic and in-water sessions focused on strengthening citizen science on elasmobranchs, also known as the cartilaginous fishes, which include sharks, rays, and skates,” the statement said.

Proper procedures in photo-documention and interaction guidelines with this group of animals will also highlight the event.

It added that the training aims to reinforce the interest of the participants in collecting scientific information on elasmobranchs and other top predators.

As such, LAMAVE and the TMO are now soliciting and requesting for anyone who might be able to provide photos and videos of sharks and rays taken during visits to the marine park.

They will be used as materials “to identify individual sharks and rays by distinguishing unique features, such as scars, coloration, and skin patterns.”

The TMO said “identifying individual sharks would aid in the understanding of their movement patterns within the park, around the Philippines, and across the Southeast Asian region.”

“The study aims to establish shark and ray abundance and distribution in TRNP, including their migration patterns. Baited and un-baited remote underwater videos will be used, aerial counts using drones, visual census, satellite tagging of whale sharks and tiger sharks are the methods to be used in the research.”

It furthered that “citizen science will play a crucial role in the study. Photos taken by divers will help in identifying individual sharks and rays.”

The TMO said that in the past, the photos provided by divers sufficiently helped in the identification of two species previously unrecorded in the park. TMO and LAMAVE guarantee that photos submitted will be used for non-commercial purposes only.

Elasmobranch Conservation Project Coordinator Ryan Murray will be the guest at the ranger station from March to June as he gathers data for the study.

He is also reportedly willing to conduct educational lectures about the results of the research and current conservation efforts for tourists and dive boat crew while there, according to the TMO statement. (PNA)


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