Fisherman reported for illegal shark fishingPOSTED: 05/31/12 12:25 PM
St. Maarten – The Nature Foundation has filed a report with the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police Department against a fisherman who illegally caught a Caribbean reef shark. The complaint follows a stir at the Great Bay Beach Promenade (Boardwalk) on Monday, when the shark – minus head and fins – was spotted by several people near Diamond Casino.
Foundation staff also informed the fisherman that he’d violated a ministerial decree dated October 12, 2011 that bans intentionally poaching sharks in the territorial waters of St. Maarten. The act of trying to catch by tracking, stalking, baiting, chasing, trapping, hooking, netting, shooting or otherwise hunting – sharks, rays and skates is prohibited and therefore the animals may not be wounded, caught, landed, or killed. Violators may be punished with jail and a considerable fine may be issued. If Sharks are accidentally caught all steps should be taken to release the animal with as little harm as possible.
“Sharks have a very high value to the ecology of the island and the island coral reef ecosystem and they also are a major attraction to visiting dive tourists. The majority of divers who visit the island hope to see a shark while diving. The Nature Foundation and local dive operators have also been using sharks as a control method for the present lionfish invasion. Less and less sharks are being seen and populations have been going from approximately twenty individuals to now only two or three being seen in the locations where they are known to frequent,” Nature Foundation Marine Park Manager Tadzio Bervoets stated in a release.
Later he’d add, “If we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which keeps the ecosystem in balance. Also the majority of visiting divers come to see local coral reefs as well as sharks. A system collapse will occur if we lose these species and this very important tourism product will be lost. That is why this step taken by government is a true milestone in marine conservation, allowing the shark population to return to numbers needed to sustain a healthy population.”
“We are not against fishing; in fact the whole reason why we established certain rules on some fishing activities is that we hope to replenish our fishing stock to levels they once were. We have lost most of our big fish on all our fishing grounds in the last three decades and we want to once again have St. Maarten people be able to fish at a sustainable level, but the way things are currently nature cannot support wide scale fishery,” Bervoets concluded.