Project type: Shark tagging expedition
Date: February 12-19, 2015
Location: Bimini, Bahamas
Project target: To place acoustic tags on great hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran) to monitor their migratory pattern. To speak with government officials of the Caribbean states to create more marine sanctuaries for sharks and rays
Lead Scientist: Dr. Tristan Guttridge
Tagging team: William Winram, assisted by Laurent Egli
Organizer: THE WATERMEN PROJECT & The Pew Charitable Trust
The Pew Charitable Trusts invited IUCN Ocean Ambassador William WInram to be a guest alongside former President of Costa Rica José Maria Figueres, Sir Richard Branson as well as Dr. Edd Brooks of the Cape Eleuthera Institute.
The Pew Charitable Trusts intention was to inspire the invited government officials of the Caribbean states to follow in the same footsteps as the Bahamas and BVI, and pledge to create marine protected areas and more specifically, sanctuaries for sharks and rays. A real challenge when you consider that with its more than 700 islands, the Caribbean is governed by 13 sovereign states and 17 dependent territories. A geopolitical puzzle, a giant maze of legislation, a sea of countries.
Shark dive and shark tagging
Beyond a conference, The Pew Charitable Trusts felt it was important government officials see what shark conservation is about and why it’s important, in situ. And so after Dr. Edd Brooks talk over lunch, the government delegations were invited for an up close and personal look at sharks.
We started the day’s dive with the Caribbean reef sharks – there were about 18 of them. After the reef sharks we headed for the Great Hammerhead sharks dive. Almost everyone, although already a bit cold, got in the water to see the great hammerhead shark. We waited some time for everyone to have a look and then William tagged her and sent her on her way with a brand new acoustic tag.
Caribbean round table
Over breakfast that morning, Sir Richard Branson hosted a meeting during which he explained to the delegates the commercial value of sharks alive rather than dead along with the obvious health and vitality that they maintain for ocean ecosystems – basically everyone agreed that without sharks our oceans will not remain healthy and viable.
During the discussions, the importance of sharks was well recognized as was the importance of a healthy ocean. William Winram was asked to share his thoughts and he touched on the fact that in many marine protected areas (MPAs) the fee for entry is not on a level comparable with the enormous beauty and rarity of the park. Moreover, when you realize that most marine protected areas do not have sufficient funding to allow proper patrolling of their waters and protection for the area it becomes clear that there needs to be a higher cost of entry so that tourists can continue to enjoy these amazing underwater worlds.
Indeed, from what we have learned in speaking to many tourists over the years in different MPAs most would happily pay more knowing that they were contributing to their protection.
It was interesting to hear about the evolution of the Bahamas Shark Sanctuary and how the Bahamian Trust, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Bahamian Government and the Bahamian people helped to make this a reality.
The Watermen Team was pleased to have met all of the delegates, particularly Dr. the Honourable Kedrick Pickering who is Deputy Premier and Minister of Natural Resources and Labour of the Government of the British Virgin Islands, Dr. Edd Brooks, President José María Figueres and Sir Richard Branson. Dr. Edd Brooks is such an amazing inspiration for creating and running the Cape Eleuthera Institute, José María is an eloquent speaker and an extremely intelligent gentleman in the truest sense of the word. I also briefly spoke with Richard Branson about shark tagging and he was truly one of the most humble and genuine people we have met… a true pleasure.
The Watermen Project team is often invited to speak in land-locked cities about the importance of ocean conservation, about the intricate relationship we have with the sea, whether we live by it or in the mountains far away from it. It regulates our weather, it provides our water, all our run-offs however remote on earth, end up in the ocean.
It is pir hope that Caribbean governments which are seabound by their geographic nature lead the way and protect what must be protected. The pledging for the future of the ocean starts now.