Launch of our research boat

October 19, 2009 by dyertrust

by DICTs Marine Biologist Alison Towner

Hello to all the shark supporters and welcome to the first blog for the DICT white shark research program. We are so excited to finally have contact with all of those who have donated towards our shark project and aim to keep you fully informed on a monthly basis of any progress made.


The boat has been built and is standing gleaming and ready to go! Just a few adjustments need to be made to her trailer. Lwazi is a 9m long catamaran that has been modified perfectly into a fantastic and extremely practical DICT research boat. The old Lwazi used to be called Black Cat and was used for various film shoots and documentaries on great whites (specifically in the 90s) made in Gansbaai. Now it has had a complete revamp (and make over) with a newly modified hull, extended bow- brand new steel work railings, a beautiful fly deck (perfect for shark spotting) and numerous extra storage compartments added. The name Lwazi means to Knowledge in Xhosa and reflects exactly what the DICT intends it to do with it! One really nice thing about this boat is that it is really low to the waterwhich for tracking white sharks manually is imperative. We cannot wait to get her on the sea and have a few practice runs even if it just means visiting the tracking areas and making preliminary observations for now!


The shark research application with University of Cape Town (UCT) is pending, and we are getting there slowly but surely! To set up an extensive research project takes careful organisation. We were very excited to get out and start sampling early in spring but these things take careful planning and time management is of paramount importance to prevent complications further down the line and attain the best possible data and results that can be takento anyone involved in the research field, I am sure you will understand.

We are really excited to have the collaboration of Dr Malcolm Smale (a very experienced shark expert/scientist from Port Elizabeth museum) on our team. Malcolm will co supervise the project together with Prof. Les Underhill from UCT Director of theAnimal Demography Unit (ADU). His advice has been critical in the fine tuning of our sampling protocol. The aim is to have the application in and permit issued before the December period -fingers crossed. As soon as the permit is in our hands we are ready to get out and start tracking our first sharks.


From the 24 to the 26th of October,Marine Dynamics Shark Tours(closely associated with the DICT) has a space booked at the DIVE show, being hosted at the NEC in Birmingham UK. This will provide a wonderful opportunity to promote shark conservation to a completely diver based audience- in order to hopefully raise some more sponsorship and support. Talks will be given on the Great White shark and Gansbaai, and also on the concept of using eco tourism to fund research.


September and early October have been wonderful months for donations to the shark project. The blocks on the map are beginning to fill more and more with bright pink stickersthat means more and more money to buy more and more tagsand more and more data on white shark movements in Gansbaai is potentially available to us! Funding is usually the one big limiting factor with shark telemetricsespecially since the price of one VEMCO V16 tag is almost 600 US dollars. The larger the sample sizethe more accurate the results however, and since no white sharks have been tagged in Gansbaai acoustically yetwe are very optimistic to get our sample size as adequate as possible!