Nature Foundation sets up night patrols to fight shark fishing

POSTED: 08/26/11 11:53 AM

St. Maarten – The Nature Foundation issued a press release about people who are trophy hunting the resident shark population within the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and subsequently killing them. Earlier yesterday, the foundation issues a statement announcing that Tourism Minister Franklin Meyers had issued a ban on shark fishing in the park, but there is no official statement to this effect yet.
“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 foundations manager Tadzio Bervoets stated. “The majority of divers who visit the island hope to see a shark while diving.” The Nature Foundation as well as local dive operators are using sharks as a control method for the present lionfish invasion. Over the last weeks less and less sharks are seen, and those that are seen show disturbing signs of considerable damage. One shark was seen with the left side of its face torn away leaving its eye-socket exposed. Another one was seen with its jaw broken open being unable to feed.
“The population have gone from approximately twenty to only two or three that are seen in the locations they are known to frequent,” Bervoets stated.

Sharks are an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs. “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” Bervoets said.

“We have also been trying very hard to develop a way in which we introduce predatory species, particularly sharks, to lionfish as a prey item in the hopes of controlling the infestation. We have been catching specimens and presenting them to sharks to increase the learning curve of them recognizing lionfish as a prey item. With the loss of this very important species the lionfish problem will only get worse,” according to Bervoets.

The Nature Foundation has investigated several incidents and has found that the sharks are not being caught by local traditional fishermen; but by sport fishermen who use expensive fishing gear and high powered boats. “These individuals deliberately chum the water to catch and kill the animals, particularly at night. Many reports have been coming into the Nature Foundation office of persons witnessing the killing of sharks, again particularly at night,” Bervoets stated. “Local fishermen are also complaining about these incidents as the sharks are caught and left for dead. On many occasions divers have had to remove hooks and lines attached to the sharks. Many sharks are not able to feed due to the damage caused by these irresponsible fishermen. There is also evidence of fishing for baby sharks.”

During the signing Ceremony for the Man of War Shoal Marine Park the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunication and Transport the Honourable Minister Franklin Meyers was briefed on these incidents and the Minister assured that steps will be taken to ban the deliberate chumming and fishing for sharks in the territorial waters of St. Maarten. The presence of sharks are vital to the economy of St. Maarten, they are a major attraction to the island and if current trends continue the island will lose this vital tourism product and important revenue will be lost, not to mention the collapse of the coral reef ecosystem so important for diving, snorkelling, coastal protection and beach replenishment. The Nature Foundation will now initiate night patrols to combat shark fishing.

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Comments (2)

 

  1. David says:

    This type of shark fishing is a disgrace and an insult to the land based shark anglers who do everything possible to conserve the very few shark that they actually catch.
    They tag and release their sharks, use barbless hooks to facilitate easy release and they use strong enough line and tackle to virtually illiminate instances where a shark is left with line or wire traces hanging from its mouth. If people like these shark killers are not caught and identified it will lead to knee jerk stupidity and the pleasure of all anglers will be curtailed. Please identify these people to the authorities as soon as possible.

  2. David says:

    As expected- a typical knee jerk reaction as St Maarten again proves its inability to set reasonable guidelines and enforce them.
    All shark fishing is now banned because of the stupidity and irresponsible behavior of some persons.
    Now proper shark anglers who tag and release are also being penalised.
    Next ban all cars because some drivers behave badly. ban all politicians because some behave badly. Ban all shops because some sell counterfiet goods. Ban all restaurants because some are insanitary. The list goes on but the curtailment of normal decent people who are in a minority continues. Democracy is a wonderful thing!