Nature Foundation warns against shark poaching

POSTED: 11/9/12 12:32 PM

St. Maarten – The Nature Foundation responded to a report of a dead shark which was left in a plastic bag in Simpson Bay. Foundation-staff sent a report to the authorities about a penalty for the responsible party. The Foundation did not identify this party but stated in a press release that it will follow up on all incidents of shark poaching.

The dead shark was a four foot Caribbean Reef shark, the most important species found in local waters.

The practice of intentionally fishing for sharks has been forbidden since October 12th 2011, when the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs temporarily banned it 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 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, the foundation stated in the release.

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 only two or three.

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, 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” Nature Foundation Marine Park Manager Tadzio Bervoets said.

The Nature Foundation will launch a wide scale shark research project which goes hand in hand with an education campaign educating the public on the importance of sharks. The Foundation urges everyone to look at the YouTube video YouTube/ Fin- Help End the Horror or visit the Nature Foundation Facebook page to see the disastrous results of shark fishing and finning.

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