The Junk Liveaboards, in conjunction with Oceans For All Foundation, organized a special Leopard Shark Expedition from 8 to 12 April 2021. This expedition aims to assess the current situation of leopard sharks – presence, numbers, and habitat – in the Thai Andaman Sea.
The first edition explored the Similan & Surin Islands. The data collected during the expedition provide the basis of a Leopard Shark Conservation Petition. This petition will be presented to the Thai Government in order to protect the leopard sharks. David Martin, the founder of Oceans For All, joined us on board to guide us through the first Leopard Shark Research Expedition.
On 8 April, everyone embarked The Junk from Chalong Pier in Phuket. Just as we set off on our way out to the Similans, there was instant excitement. David Martin, together with the assistance of everyone onboard, released 5 small bamboo sharks back into the ocean. The bamboo sharks originated from his foundation’s shark breeding program. Our four youngest guests got to name the bamboo sharks. They were baptized: Charlotte, Bob, George, Astrid and Austin. All guests took great delight in sending these little sharkies back home to the ocean. A unique event!
Leopard shark EDNA
On the first evening, David gave a short introduction to Oceans For All foundation and outlined some of the fantastic work they do in order to protect and rehabilitate our oceans. David also explained the process of collecting leopard shark EDNA, in which our guests could partake on most dives. Guests were kindly asked to collect water samples from an area where they thought it likely a leopard shark may have been. The itinerary included all the usual Similan & Surin diving highlights, plus a few extra dive sites where leopard sharks had been spotted recently.
Back on board, David filtered the collected water samples through a membrane into a test tube, which was then labeled for that specific dive site. The collected test tubes are to be sent for analysis at a university lab in Bangkok. Watch the video on how to collect EDNA from a leopard shark.
In the evenings, David shared with us some of the amazing underwater video footage he has made from around the world. He also showcased his foundation’s important work to save and restore our beautiful oceans. Guests were spellbound by the videos and deeply touched by the foundation’s work and how each of us can assist in a small way to help this incredible purpose.
To top it off, on the second dive of the first day, a few of our divers were fortunate enough to see this leopard shark!
The Junk Liveaboards proudly donates 3.000 THB per guest to Oceans For All, while guests were kindly invited to donate 150 THB per person towards the EDNA sample collection. This is to assist with the cost of analyzing the collected samples.
All in all, the Leopard Shark Expedition was a great success. All participants received not only a collector’s item T-shirt but also a certificate of attendance to celebrate their contribution to the success of this first-ever leopard shark research trip on The Junk. The results of the EDNA and the status of the conservation petition will be announced at TDEX, the dive show in Bangkok, later this year. All participants are invited to attend and contribute.
We have scheduled a second Leopard Shark Expedition to research the South Andaman dive sites, such as: Phi Phi, Koh Haa, all the way down to the famous dive sites Hin Muang & Hin Daeng. Due to the current Covid situation in Thailand, we will reschedule this trip to a later date. Keep an eye on our website for updates!