Don’t let its size fool you: the gigantic whale shark is in danger.
Brad Norman is a marine biologist based in Shark Bay, Australia. He is pioneering a worldwide database of whale shark information to protect and preserve this giant of the deep.
Norman is a 2006 Rolex Awards for Enterprise Laureate, and he has used the support available to him through this programme to better understand how hunting and collisions with ships are driving whale sharks to the verge of extinction.
“Whale shark numbers have declined by more than 50% over the last 75 years. If we do nothing now, there is a big risk that we lose this species forever. This isn’t something I want happening on my watch,” he says.
If we do nothing now, there is a big risk that we lose this species forever. This isn’t something I want happening on my watchMarine biologist Brad Norman on the need to protect the world's whale sharks
Having adapted an algorithm that Nasa uses to track the movement of stars in the night sky, Norman keeps a constant vigil over whale shark movements all over the planet.
By monitoring these fish through innovative, non-invasive tagging technology, he is discovering whether climate change is affecting their movements, feeding and breeding patterns.
Whale sharks possess a unique pattern of spots on their skin — much like stripes on a zebra or human fingerprints — that is easily identifiable. So, in addition to his ingenious use of tracking technology, Norman involves individuals and communities all over the world in the work of keeping track of whale sharks. If you have an underwater camera and live near a part of the ocean frequented by whale sharks, you can also photograph them and contribute to Norman’s database to help understand their numbers and movements.
So far, more than 75,000 sightings from 54 countries have allowed Norman to adapt the algorithm and assemble this critical knowledge base. His work uses technology to better understand, and thus protect and preserve, the world’s vulnerable animals and ecosystems.
Navigate to Rolex.org to discover more and to watch the Rolex 'Heroes of the Oceans' documentary. #PerpetualPlanet #RolexAwards