Richard Branson comes to St. Maarten for shark conservation talks

POSTED: 05/23/16 7:06 PM

St. Maarten News – Sir Richard Branson, the iconic founder of the Virgin Group, will be in St. Maarten on June 15 for a conference about shark conservation. The conference is a follow up to the PEW Charitable Trusts conference Branson organized in February 2015 where agreements were made about the protection of sharks. Dignitaries from several islands in the Caribbean will attend the conference.

The Save our Sharks organization organizes a trip for Dutch journalists to this conference and to surrounding activities during Shark Week.

The Nature Foundation in St. Maarten and other environmental organizations united in the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance approached the Dutch Elasmobranch Society (NEV) to assist with a shark conservation project. The NEV brings together scientists, conservationists and policy makers in gathering scientific knowledge and promotes the interests of cartilaginous fishes (sharks and rays). The cooperation between the nature alliance and NEV resulted in Save our Sharks – a 3-year project that aims to revitalize the shark population around the six islands of the former Netherlands Antilles.

The Nationale Postcodeloterij finances the project that consists of protection, information and research.

Journalist will fly in June 14 from the Netherlands to St. Maarten and attend the conference with Richard Branson the following day. As a follow up to the conference Branson organized in February 2015, this event aims to make further agreements. Reputed speakers and experts are part of the conference.

Especially Saba and Bonaire have announced concrete steps during last year’s meeting. During the media trip there will be ample attention for these measures.

From June 16 to 22 the journalists will travel to Saba, Curacao and possibly Bonaire and visit sites on land and on water, guided by rangers, scientists and nature photographers who will provide elaborate explanations.

During Caribbean Shark Week there will be several activities in the islands, including a color run, beach parties, a quiz and trivia night with islanders and dinners.

There will be opportunities to meet with islanders, politicians, scientists, dignitaries and representatives of several organizations within the Save our Sharks project.

Unicef Ambassador Jörgen Raymann – a Dutch-Surinamese stand-up comedian who has also been named Minister of Peace by IKV Pax Christi – and kids’ correspondent Taco Rietveld are part of the media group. The journalists will have ample opportunities for interviews about all aspects of protecting sharks and nature, and about politics and science.

The media group travels back to the Netherlands on June 21 or 22.

At the end of Shark Week – an event that also takes place in the Netherlands – government leaders will receive a petition that calls for better protection of sharks. In the Netherlands, State Secretary Martijn van Dam (Economic Affairs) will receive the petition; on the islands local politicians will receive it.

“All over the world sharks are threatened by overfishing and the destruction of their habitat. Sharks are often just killed out of stupidity and ignorance,” Save our Sharks, the organizer of the media trip says. “Many species are thus threatened with extinction. The number of sharks around St. Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Saba and Statia has also diminished over the past couple of years.”

The organization says that sharks are not only special animals to watch. “They are of incalculable value for keeping reefs healthy. They are also of a significant economic value, because dive tourists love to go to places where they are able to see sharks.”

The sharks in the Caribbean are “absolutely not dangerous” to human beings, the organization says. Not everybody knows this and in that sense education is required to promote tourism.”

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