March 2016 Project Update - Marine Conservation, Mozambique

29 March 2016

Seeing spots!

My heart stood still as I saw the grey and white contrast of his spots, more vibrant than I had ever imagined, softly gliding through the water just a meter below me. Kicking as fast as I could, I was determined to stay with him. We were on our way back from a double dive and I was exhausted, but I had a feeling of excitement that I had not felt since I was a child.

The skipper said, with confidence, that we would see one on the way back from our dives. Even though I had yet to ever see one, I wanted to believe him. However, after our dives I was a bit cold and content to head back into the bay. Then all of the sudden I heard, “Whale Shark!” and my body started shaking. I waited my whole life to finally see the biggest fish in the sea and now I knew there was one just in the water. I could barely contain myself… “Grab the snorkel!” I yelled to my boyfriend, then proceeded to jump into the water without it. After hopping back in the boat, we got a bit closer and that’s when I jumped in as it was swimming beneath me. I managed to keep up side-by-side for a little over a minute, with a huge grin on my face, so big my mask kept flooding.

I’m happy to say that over 10 whale shark encounters later, that excitement hasn’t faded in the slightest. If only I were here 10 years ago, where the stories speak of endless whale sharks, so many that boats had to make careful paths through them. Tofo was and still is one of the best places to swim with these gentle giants. The sad part of the story is that over the course of those 10 years, their population here has declined 78%…a scary amount. It is a result of the unfortunate affects of poorer countries like Mozambique having their resources exploited…only this isn’t just a resource, they are living, beautiful creatures, older than the dinosaurs, and they’re being wiped out at a rapid pace.

The future doesn’t look so bright when I think about a world without the whale sharks.

From the by catch of commercial fishing vessels to the demand for shark fin soup, primarily in Hong Kong and mainland China, it seems their fate rests in the hands of ignorance and greed. I wonder how so many can take so much from the ocean with no intent to give back? These animals have been here for millions of years. They are timeless, global citizens…I am thankful for the experiences I had with them. I hope for many more in my lifetime.

Despite the darkness of their situation, I am hopeful. Organizations like this are doing wonders for these animals. I have been able to be involved in their efforts and learn about what is being done to help them. Not only for the whale sharks, but other precious animals like the Manta Rays, which have seen even stronger population declines.

I hope that more people become involved and begin to understand that education is vital to the future of these majestic creatures. Future generations deserve to see the ocean as it is now and we should continue to work to preserve its health.

Ultimately, my time here in Tofo has been life changing.

This is truly a magical little spot in the world…

To find your piece of magic, visit the project web page!

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