Nature

Dutch Caribbean Have At Least 10 Reef Associated Shark Species

A nurse shark seen on the Saba Bank. Photo Hans Leijnse.

In a recent published study as part of Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA)’s Save Our Sharks Project, Wageningen Marine Research reported ten reef-associated shark species in the Dutch Caribbean.

The most common species are the nurse shark and the Caribbean reef shark. Overall, more sharks were observed in conservation areas than in unprotected areas, highlighting the importance of these zones in shark conservation.

More than 100 million sharks are killed each year as a result of fishing and shark finning activities, twice the rate at which they can reproduce. The demand for fins and other shark products has driven a number of species close to extinction. Sharks are especially vulnerable to over fishing and habitat degradation as they are late to mature and produce few young. The main threats to sharks in our waters are accidental by-catch, habitat degradation and the risk of a shark fin market developing, which would lead to targeted fishing of sharks.

We need healthy oceans and healthy oceans need sharks

Sharks keep our oceans healthy. These top predators remove sick or weak members of their prey populations. A decrease in number of sharks leads to a disturbed natural balance in the sea. This can affect the overall fish population, and good fish stocks are not only important for fishermen that depend on fishing but also for (dive) tourism and the local community.

Respect, not fear, sharks

Sharks are some of the most misunderstood species. For generations sharks had an undeserved bad reputation. People tend to see them as terrifying animals that pose a danger to everything that swims in the ocean, including humans. But we now know that is very far from the truth; these magnificent creatures are essential to healthy oceans and risks to humans are small.

DCNA’s Save Our Sharks Project

There is a lack of knowledge concerning the distribution and abundance of shark and ray species throughout the Dutch Caribbean. To combat this knowledge gap, from 2015-2018, DCNA ran the “Save our Sharks” (SOS) project for the Dutch Caribbean, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. In this project DCNA collaborated with local fisherman and scientists and aimed to build popular support for shark and ray conservation among the local community, as well as increasing knowledge about shark and ray species within the region by conducting a number of research projects.

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