On July 7, 2013 a team of Marine Biologists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography from La Jolla, California and Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from La Paz, Baja California (hereafter CMBC) travelled to Punta de Mita, Nayarit, Mexico. The team had two main goals: 1) to tag 2 Giant Oceanic Manta Rays (Manta birosfris) with satellite tracking tags manufactured by Wildlife Computers of Redmond Washington. The MiniPAT-247A tags attached to the Mantas are designed to stay on the animals for 6 months recording daily water temperature, latitude and longitude, and depth to which the animals dive. The buoyant tags release at the end of the 6 month deployment and once on the surface the data is uploaded to a satellite at which time the scientists are able to download the data for analysis.
On July 7th the teams arrived in Puerto Vallarta and on July 8th the Scripps team began searching for the Mantas around the Mariettas Islands while the CMBC team performed reef research and biomass studies around the islands. Neither team encountered the Mantas that day, however fisherman reported a congregation around “Chimo” on the east end of Bahia Banderas. It is important to note that the local fisherman are getting involved and cooperating by reporting congregations of Mantas to Sebastian Melani of Punta Mita Expeditions.
The following day the team went out and encountered a group of Mantas at the reported location and successfully tagged a Manta with a wingspan of approximately 16ft. The tagging was filmed using GOPRO cameras and a digital still camera operated by Scripps scientist and world renowned photographer Octavio Aburto-Oropeza. Later that day an attempt was made to deploy the second tag, however there was a malfunction in the attachment hardware, so the second tag was NOT deployed.
On Wednesday, the 10th of July, both teams gathered at Casa Puesta del Sol, home of David and Anne Welborn for a dinner hosted by Grupo Cleofas, celebrating the successful tagging of the first Manta in the region, but more importantly signifying the start of this incredibly important project. After the dinner we viewed some of the raw video taken the previous day. A great time was had by all thanks to chefs ramon Rivera and Martin de la Rosa and of course David and Anne Welborn for donating there lovely home for the occasion. There was discussion of a follow up trip in late August, but no dates were discussed and the teams returned home.
The remainder of the month of July and August were spent with Josh Stewart and Octavio Aburto editing the video that was taken and creating a 4 minute video called “Tagging Giants.” The video is intended to raise awareness of the Giant Manta and also for use in future fund raising efforts. The video should be available by the end of September and will also be posted on the GOPRO website video of the day.