Sharklab members regularly take part in water-based research through snorkeling or diving. Snorkeling research is open to anyone who is confident in water, and can swim. It is supervised by experienced snorkelers. Dive research can only be carried out by certified scuba divers. Fortunately for Sharklab, we have many very experienced and highly certified divers who are members. Sharklab- Malta owns a number of sets of snorkeling gear and wetsuits and has access, through its increasing network of supporters, to any other equipment required for this research. This allows members who do not own their own equipment to take part in these activities.
The main objectives of Snorkel and Dive Research are:
- Identifying and collecting data on elasmobranch living in Maltese waters.
- Learning about the marine habitats around the Islands.
- Taking pictures as a record of elasmobranch and the other marine life around the Islands to accurately log sightings.
- To have fun exploring new areas of water and often un-dived locations.
- To have a greater appreciation of our marine environment.
Water-based research allows members to learn all about what goes on under the surface of the waters around the Maltese Islands.
Snorkel and dive research takes place all year round, when the weather allows (which is most of the time) and members get the opportunity to take part in these regular activities. Through this study we have made same great discoveries and members have personally seen, during research activities, a number of different elasmobranchs:
- Common Stingrays (Dasyatis pastinica)
- Marbled/Spotted Torpedo Rays (Torpedo marmorata)
- Blackchin Guitarfish (Rhinobatos cemiculus)
- Common Torpedo Rays (Torpedo torpedo)
- Roughtail Stingray (Dasyatis centroura)
We also have reliable information on local sightings of Bull Rays (Pteromylaeus bovinus), Common Eagle Rays (Myliobatis aquila) and the Giant Devil Ray (Mobula mobular) from local divers and friends of Sharklab- Malta and we hope to see these ourselves during future research.
We have only received a few reports of sightings of sharks, but they are very difficult to validate as they are often only a quick glimpse of something passing by. Unfortunately, the encounter of sharks close to shore is very rare.
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay Research
One of our priority areas to conduct snorkel surveys is Ghajn Tuffieha Bay.
This was already an area of extreme interest as, during land-based egg case searches, we found the egg cases (mermaid’s purses) from 4 different species of elasmobranch; including Smaller Spotted Catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula), Nursehound (Scyliorhinus stellaris), Spotted Ray (Raja montagui) and Thornback Ray (Raja clavata). Water-based research was a natural progression for Sharklab to be able to look in more detail at the bay and its inhabitants.
The research snorkels and dives at Ghajn Tuffieha take place over several weekends each time and this research is beginning to build up a picture of the marine life in this location. The variety of marine life present including juvenile Common Stingrays (Dasyatis pastinica) makes this location a fantastic place to explore and learn more about elasmobranch, and the many other inhabitants of the Maltese waters.
If you get the opportunity to visit Ghajn Tuffieha, we recommend you take time to at least snorkel in the bay and explore what lies beneath the surface. (It should be noted that during strong winds and the winter months caution should be taken as this can be a hazardous place – only entered by experienced snorkelers and divers, as unusually strong and difficult currents can be experienced.)
The Snorkel and Dive research is not restricted only to Ghajn Tuffieha and members have explored many of the regular tourist sites as well as some more unusual and less accessible areas.
Some of the areas we have dived or snorkeled recently include:
- Golden Bay
- Cirkewwa (various areas)
- Mistra Bay
- Zonqor Point
- St Thomas Bay
- Mellieha Bay
- Anchor Bay
- Bahar Ic-Caghaq
- Ghadira Bay
- Gnejna Bay
- Xrobb L-Ghajn
This list does not cover everywhere we have been, but is just an example of some locations explored, all of them interesting in their own particular way. Details are carefully logged, and pictures are taken for reference during, and after, all research snorkels and dives.
So far, we have not extended our range of research to Gozo and Comino, but it is planned, in the not too distant future, to start including these in our research.
If you are a snorkeler or diver, and would like to get involved with the research throughout the Islands with Sharklab, then please get in touch with us. Become a member and you will automatically be invited to participate in all research activities. Details of how to become a member can be found on the link on the home page.
If you want any more information, then please get in touch with us: info(at)sharklab-malta.org