epic tiger shark diving expeditions
pew bnt shark conservation bahamas

Caribbean Shark Conservation Symposium

From the BNT

The Bahamas National Trust Co-hosts Caribbean Shark Conservation Symposium: Expanded regional shark protections discussed during meeting

The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) joined the Government of St. Maarten, St. Maarten Nature Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts as hosts of the Caribbean Shark Conservation Symposium, which took place from Tuesday, June 13 through Thursday, June 16. The gathering of Caribbean island government officials, environmental NGOs, and global shark conservation experts was coordinated to discuss the future of shark conservation in the region.

As the first Caribbean country to establish a shark sanctuary and a leader in the region, the voice of the The Bahamas was represented at the meeting by Eric Carey, Executive Director of BMT.

Carey said: “The Bahamas National Trust has been promoting shark conservation for many years. Our efforts to secure the longline ban nearly 30 years ago, presented an incredible opportunity to protect intact shark populations. Our being asked to cohost this meeting is a clear indication that the actions taken by The Bahamas to protect our sharks, has distinguished us as a leader in ocean conservation in the Caribbean. BNT is proud to have played a part in this.”

Also in attendance was Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson, who has been supportive of establishing regional shark protections throughout the Caribbean, and cohosted a similar meeting in Bimini, The Bahamas in 2015.

During the meeting, four Caribbean governments committed to help reverse this trend by fully protecting sharks in their waters. St. Maarten and the Cayman Islands announced that their economic zones (EEZs) are completely closed to commercial shark fishing. Additionally, Curacao announced that they will establish legislation this year that will protect sharks in their waters, and Grenada is considering measures that would safeguard sharks within the country’s EEZ. Together, the two new sanctuaries cover a total of 119,631 square kilometers and raise the total number of Caribbean sanctuaries to seven.

The findings of a study of the economic impact of sharks on The Bahamas’ tourism industry were also released at the meeting. Lead investigator, Dr. Edward Brooks from the Cape Eleuthera Institute, was in attendance to discuss the study, which found that sharks generate US$113 million annually in direct expenditure and value added through tourism to the Bahamian economy.

Brooks said: “The results of our study illustrate the importance of the ongoing stewardship of sharks and rays demonstrated by The Bahamian Government over the last 25 years, for which they are now reaping the economic rewards. However, despite the actions of The Bahamas and the other Caribbean nations who protect sharks within their waters, more work is needed on a regional basis in order to effectively manage many of these economically important species which call the entire North West Atlantic and Caribbean home.”

Sharks play a vital role in the Caribbean, both to the health of the ocean and to a countless number of people whose livelihoods are directly connected to these animals. With at least 100 million sharks killed each year, establishing additional meaningful and lasting protections in the Caribbean will ensure a healthy shark population for future generations.

pew bnt shark conservation bahamas

shark fin protest

Cathay Pacific bans shipments of shark fin

Cathay Pacific statement on shark's fin carriage

22 Jun 2016

Cathay Pacific has a long standing commitment to play our role in a more sustainable world. We were one of the first airlines in the world to raise the awareness of the unsustainability of the global shark trade.

The airline has not approved any shipments for shark’s fin for the past year since we instituted a policy agreed with two highly respected international shark conservation agencies. The policy states that any request for shipment of shark or shark products must be assessed by an external panel of acknowledged experts.

Based on our procedure for assessing whether shark products are sustainably sourced, we have rejected all 15 shipment requests for shark-related products in the last 12 months.

We understand the community’s desire to promote responsible and sustainable marine sourcing practices, and this remains important to Cathay Pacific’s overall sustainable development goals.

Therefore, on the issue of shark’s fin, with immediate effect we are happy to agree to ban the carriage.  We will continue to review this practice, as we do all our sustainable development policies.

shark fin protest

Alex Hofford, a wildlife campaigner for WildAid said: “A responsible corporate like Cathay Pacific should never be seen to be a link in the supply chain for a criminal trade. That’s why we are so happy that Cathay has done the right thing by no longer carry any shark fin or shark products. Shipping sharks by air is not just an issue of sustainability, but ethics and legality.”

Source: Cathay Pacific bans shipments of shark fin amid pressure from conservation groups | Hong Kong Free Press

smalltooth sawfish

Endangered Oceans: Smalltooth Sawfish

The smalltooth sawfish is one of the most unique shark species found in warm tropical waters. It has been on the endangered species list since 2003 because of drastic reductions in their population. Unlike other shark populations decimated by the shark finning industry, this species is threatened primarily through habitat destruction and bycatch.

Here’s a video put together by NOAA:

Video Transcript

Sawfish are large shark-like rays that are found in tropical and subtropical seas, rivers, and creeks, and can grow to 15 feet.

It gets its name from its long, saw-like nose called a rostrum which is lined with modified scales that look like teeth, 22-29 on each side.

It uses its “saw” packed with electro-sensitive organs and teeth to locate, stun, and kill prey.

And although it’s been around for over 50 million years, it is now endangered.

Two major threats exist for this species: bycatch in various fisheries, and loss of juvenile habitat.

Its toothed rostrum can easily become entangled in fishing lines and nets.

Young sawfish use shallow habitats that are lined with mangrove forests, as important nursery areas. Many such habitats have been displaced by concrete seawalls  or lost entirely due to development of the waterfront.

The smalltooth sawfish was listed as endangered in 2003.  NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has worked to develop and implement a recovery plan for the species.  The major steps for recovery include: reducing bycatch in fisheries, protecting important habitats, and educating the public.

Guidelines were also developed for fishermen to safely handle and release any sawfish they might catch.

Today, NOAA Fisheries continues to study this species. Through this research, they hope to help develop the next steps in conservation and management that will save this endangered species. You can help bring them back from the brink of extinction by protecting shoreline habitats and reporting sawfish sightings or encounters to the International Sawfish Encounter Database.

smalltooth sawfish shark research

Image ID: fish1952, NOAA’s Fisheries Collection
Location: Atlantic Ocean

Check out Ocean Today by NOAA for more great information.

global shark sanctuaries map

New Shark Sanctuaries announced in the Caribbean

Exciting news this week as four new shark sanctuaries were announced for the Caribbean!  Both St. Maarten and the Cayman Islands decided to completely close their exclusive economic zones to commercial shark fishing.  The islands of Curacao and Grenada have also announced that they will follow suit and create legislation later this year to protect sharks in those regions.

“People from all over the world come to our island to dive and snorkel with our marine wildlife, including sharks and rays,” said Irania Arrindell, St. Maarten’s minister of tourism, economic affairs, transport, and telecommunications. “St. Maarten’s shark sanctuary will help to ensure that our local shark populations exist for future generations and continue to benefit St. Maarten’s marine ecosystem and ecotourism.”

The new shark sanctuaries cover a total of 46,190 square miles (119,631 square kilometers)!  The total number of shark sanctuaries in the Caribbean is now seven!

    • Honduras (est. 2011)
    • The Bahamas (est. 2011)
    • British Virgin Islands (est. 2014)
    • Bonaire (est. 2105)
    • Saba (est. 2015)
    • Cayman Islands (est. 2016)
    • St. Maarten (est. 2016)

The total number of shark sanctuaries worldwide is now fourteen, covering 6 million square miles!  In addition to the seven Caribbean shark sanctuaries, the remaining seven are:

    • Palau (est. 2009)
    • Maldives (est. 2010)
    • Marshall Islands (est. 2011)
    • Cook Islands (est. 2012)
    • French Polynesia (est. 2012)
    • New Caledonia (est. 2013)
    • Federated States of Micronesia (est. 2015)

global shark sanctuaries map

“Establishing sanctuaries to protect all sharks makes clear that these top predators warrant the same status as other vulnerable marine wildlife that help attract ecotourism, such as turtles and whales.”

It is so crucial that the attitudes and opinions of people and governments change and recognize the important role sharks play in the ocean ecosystem.  Their protection is desperately needed to preserve a healthy ocean environment.

Take a look at the full press release from PEW here.

how deep is the ocean

Human Trash Reached The Deepest Part Of The Ocean

For now, scientists plan to continue to study and observe the impact of these chemicals on deep sea life. But just because our waste has landed in a place we will never see doesn’t mean we should ignore the problem.

As National Geographic suggests, there are plenty of things you can do right now to help stave off the effects of human waste on our world’s oceans including reducing your use of one-time use plastics (like straws, bottled water and coffee cup tops), avoid purchasing items that contribute to marine loss (such as coral jewelry and shark teeth), and by continuing to educate yourself on all the wonderful creatures who call the sea their home. 

Source: Humans Reached The Deepest Part Of The Ocean, But Not The Way You Think | GOOD

silky shark diving bahamas

Pew Commends Broad Global Support for Proposed Shark and Ray Protections

According to PEW’s website, silky sharks, bigeye thresher sharks, common thresher sharks, and pelagic thresher sharks are particularly vulnerable throughout their habitat. Whether it’s from targeted shark fisheries, by-catch, or the extreme levels of unregulated/illegal fishing, these species have suffered dramatic population declines, around 70%.

CITES is recognized globally as one of the most effective and best-enforced international conservation agreements. It provides protection to more than 30,000 species around the world and has been instrumental in preventing the extinction of many plants and animals.  Votes on the proposed listings for thresher and silky sharks and mobula rays will take place at the CITES meeting in Johannesburg in September.

Source: Pew Commends Broad Global Support for Proposed Shark and Ray Protections

beheaded shark fishing

Beheaded shark found in fishing cooler – Miami man arrested

A Monroe County sheriff’s deputy found this gutted and beheaded shark in a Miami man’s fishing cooler. The man was arrested and charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

The shark was reportedly a bonnethead shark, the smallest member of the hammerhead shark genus (Sphyrna – greek for hammer) and is considered a timid and harmless shark. Bonnethead sharks are just 2-3 feet on average, with the largest being around 5 feet in length. Like most shark species, the females tend to be larger than the males.

Regarding their conservation status, the bonnethead shark currently holds a LC (least concern) listing as per the IUNC Red List.

A Miami-Dade man was arrested Wednesday in the Florida Keys and charged with a second degree misdemeanor after a Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy discovered a beheaded shark in his fishing cooler.

Source: Beheaded shark found in fishing cooler leads to Miami man’s arrest

oceanic whitetips shark research group

Oceanic Whitetip Shark tagging at Cat Island

The folks over at the Cape Eleuthera Institute have just wrapped up their 2016 Oceanic Whitetip Shark tagging program. This concludes their sixth year of the program which has now caught and tagged nearly 60 individual whitetips in the waters surrounding Cat Island.

The goals of the study are to:

  • Determine generalized movements and determine high-use areas of sharks in relation to the Bahamas shark sanctuary.
  • Examine diving behavior through high resolution temperature and depth data.
  • Investigate potential hormone markers to identify reproductive cycles.
  • Examine prey-preference potential seasonal diet switches through tracing relative concentrations of Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes.
  • Gather baseline genetics data which will be incorporated into fin-trade management, and will detect fins from Oceanic whitetips found in the Western Atlantic.

Investigating these large knowledge gaps are intrinsic to the contemporary management of oceanic whitetip shark populations, and will provide novel insights into the biology and ecology of a severely threatened apex predator.

Read more about there work here: Shark Research and Conservation Program facilitates another successful year of Oceanic Whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) tagging at Cat Island | CEI Blog

shark fins for soup

Two Men Plead Guilty to Federal Shark Violations

Agents found 11 whole sharks located on the deck and a hidden compartment in the bow of the vessel that contained 12 large sacks of shark fins totaling 2,073 fins.  The bodies of the fins found in the sacks were not found on the vessel.

These two men were arrested back in 2012 when they were caught finning sharks, red handed. They just recently pled guilty to the charges and received their sentencing.

  • The pair were ordered to pay a fine to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) totaling $45,000.
  • The men were also placed on two years of probation and during which they agreed to not transfer any of their federal shark directed permits.
  • They also further agreed that if they are determined to be in violation of any provision of the Magnusson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act during this two-year period, they will surrender all of their federal shark directed permits for a period of nine months.
  • Lastly the men had their Louisiana state shark permits and set line licenses revoked for life.

Pretty light, we think. What about you? Should they have paid a heavier fine? Comment below.

Source: Two Men Plead Guilty to Federal Shark Violations | Shark Year Magazine

great white shark killed

Viral photos of decapitated shark prompt state investigation

Authorities are seeking any information that can help lead them to the people who committed this crime. Although this was initially reported to have occurred at Newport Beach pier, investigators cannot be certain this image was even from California.

Viral photographs of a decapitated shark that appeared on social media this week have sparked an investigation by authorities in Newport Beach, though wildlife officers said Wednesday it was unclear where and when the fish was mutilated.

Source: Viral photos of decapitated shark prompt state investigation