Friday, January 25, 2008

Newport Aquarium's WAVE Foundation Awards Grant to Operation Whale Shark

NEW YORK CITY — WAVE Foundation of Kentucky’s Newport Aquarium has awarded $6,200 to Operation Whale Shark, a study conducted by the Shark Research Institute (SRI). The grant, together with funds from the World Wildlife Fund, is helping SRI scientists identify the size, structure, and habits of the population of whale sharks that aggregate in Tanzanian waters. As scientists learn where whale sharks travel they are able to concentrate conservation efforts in areas where these ocean giants are at greatest risk.

Visitors to the Newport Aquarium donated funds to the aquarium’s Dollars for Conservation Campaign, which is administered by the WAVE Foundation.

SRI’s Operation Whale Shark, initiated in 1993, is the oldest and largest whale shark study in the world. SRI field researchers have placed ID tags on hundreds of the “gentle giants” and photographs of many of the sharks are logged in the Ecocean database, a photo-catalogue that uses the unique pattern of spots and stripes of individual animals as identifiers. In addition, SRI has utilized satellite telemetry to monitor the travels of whale sharks in the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

“SRI now has almost the entire Mafia Island population of whale sharks identified and marked,” says SRI marine biologist Matt Potenski. “This research is enabling development of sustainable tourism and giving living whale sharks sufficient value to render their harvest uneconomical and undesirable. Local stewardship and legal protection has created a refuge for whale sharks.”

Visitors to the Newport Aquarium donated funds to the aquarium’s Dollars for Conservation Campaign, which is administered by the WAVE Foundation.

Operation Whale Shark receives no government funding and relies on continued public, private, and corporate support to continue its research and conservation efforts around the world.

The WAVE Foundation, designated as a 501(c) 3 organization, is an education foundation located at the Newport Aquarium (Newport, Kentucky). The foundation’s mission is to excite, engage and educate the public about the wonders of aquatic life and the importance of conservation. The WAVE acronym stands for Welfare of Aquatic Animals and Natural Resources, Advocate for Conservation, Volunteer Pursuits and Educational Opportunities.

Newport Aquarium showcases thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water. It is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a leader in global wildlife conservation. The aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located only two minutes from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

SRI, WWF and the WAVE Foundation are all driving forces in whale shark study and management in the Mafia Island area and are really doing a tremendous job in helping to promote the whale shark as a living resource. Since Operation Whale Shark relies on grants and donations to further its work, this grant is critical.

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