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Dive In: Guy Harvey’s Ocean Conservation Month & Fundraiser

Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation has designated November as Ocean Conservation month. This is a first for the Cayman Islands and is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about issues our oceans and marine life face as well as ocean conservation efforts. To kickoff the month of November, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation will be hosting their 3rd annual fundraiser on Wednesday 8th November 2017. The event will take place at Luca restaurant from 6:30pm-9:30pm, and will include both a live and silent auction. This is a cocktail party not to be missed, as the keynote address will be presented by special guest Dr. Ellen Prager. Tickets are on sale now at Guy Harvey Gallery and Shoppe, CI$150.00 for a ticket and all proceeds raised will go towards funding the biannual Southern stingray survey and shark tagging by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. Throughout the month, there will be a focus on: Shark Talk – educational documentaries and talks for all local students at the Regal Cinema; an educational pack and short videos made available to schools and online for download for the public (sponsored by Kenneth Dart Foundation); moonlight documentary screenings featuring A Plastic Ocean and Chasing Coral (sponsored by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment); a special ocean themed museum exhibition at the Cayman Islands National Museum; and the grand finale will be the premier of Guy Harvey’s latest documentary This is Their Ocean: Sea of Life featuring two lucky students that had the opportunity to join Guy Harvey and his team on an exciting expedition to experience the life of whale sharks.

Ocean Conservation Starts at Home

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation’s mission is simple:

 

“The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation conducts scientific research and hosts educational programs aimed at conserving the marine environment. The GHOF will help ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from a naturally balanced ocean ecosystem.” -GHOF

The luxury of living in the Cayman Islands is that we have easy access to stunning waters, biodiverse coral reefs, marine life and beautiful beaches. Being entitled to all of this natural beauty and wonder puts us in a position as custodians of our oceans, ecosystems, coral reefs and marine life with the responsibility to preserve and protect these invaluable natural resources. People protect what they love, and some of our islands greatest treasures need ocean conservation to preserve and protect them. The Cayman Islands is a designated Sharks and Rays Sanctuary under our National Conservation Law— a positive step for Cayman in ocean conservation. Protecting Cayman’s sharks and rays is absolutely necessary for the betterment of our marine environment. Equally as important is researching these magnificent creatures, to better understand their behavior and life history. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation Fundraiser will allocate some of it’s proceeds towards tagging sharks and stingrays to study their movements, migration patterns and behaviors. Obtaining this important data is key to maintaining conservation.

Stingray Conservation and Ecology Research

“Maintaining the biological health of these stingray populations for the long-term will require management and conservation programs based on a thorough knowledge of the biology of these animals.”- Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation

The Cayman Islands is home to some of the world’s best known diving and snorkeling sites. Two of our island’s most famous sites include Stingray City and the Sandbar, a haven for our island’s beloved stingrays. Our stingrays are a popular tourist attraction, particularly due to their friendly nature, and the easy access to swimming and interacting with our rays. Nearly a million visitors from around the world everyyear visit our islands to swim with our stingrays at the Stingray City Sandbar. To ensure a positive future for our rays it is important to conduct ecological research which includes health checks and tagging the rays to learn more about the movements and behaviors. Due to the extensive amount of human interaction with the stingrays on a daily basis throughout the year and supplemental feeding they receive from dive operations, it is key to study the impact this has on the rays to ensure their safety and health. Fifteen years of tagging data has indicated that there is a population size of 144 -147 stingrays that utilize the Sandbar, with females almost six times more abundant than males. Another interesting fact to note, is “after an Initial comparison of movement patterns of human fed stingrays with unfed stingrays shows some evidence that unfed animals may have larger movement ranges than fed animals” (Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation). To learn more about this program click here

Tagging and Tracking Oceanic Whitetip Sharks and Tiger Sharks in the Cayman Islands

The Oceanic Whitetip shark is a pelagic species and can be found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. The IUCN lists the oceanic whitetip as vulnerable globally, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. This is a direct result of this species being subject to enormous fishing pressure causing a significant decline in its population. It was once considered to be the most abundant large animal, over 100lbs, on Earth.. Therefore, conservation efforts are needed to protect this species of shark and prevent further decline in its population. Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Guy Harvey Research Institute and project partners have teamed up to tag oceanic whitetips to study their populations and migratory patterns. Moreover, they “are studying the stock structure of oceanic whitetip sharks on a global scale by using genetic techniques, and migration patterns of this species in the western Atlantic with the aid of satellite tracking technologies” (GHOF). To learn more about this project click here

 

The Tiger Shark is famous for their beautiful tiger-like stripes, hence the name. Tiger sharks can be found in tropical and warm-temperate waters. Research shows that tiger sharks play a key ecological role as apex predators in many marine ecosystems. In particular, tiger sharks frequent habitats such as coral reefs, and the open ocean. Sadly, populations of tiger sharks are declining as they are heavily fished for their fins to supply the global shark fin trade. Significant loss of tiger sharks is considered to result in a negative environmental impact on coral reef ecosystems that rely on the tiger sharks to maintain balance. A key component to management and conservation of tiger sharks or any shark species for that matter is having a clear understanding of their migratory patterns, how they use their environment and what is deemed to be a critical habitat for them. Long term research now reveals tiger sharks exhibit predictable seasonal migratory patterns. Thus, it is important to tag tiger sharks to gather more data to have a better understanding of their migratory patterns and their behaviors. Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Guy Harvey Research Institution and project partners are tagging tiger sharks through various ways to gather comprehensive data regarding their migratory patterns. They “employ three types of electronic tagging technology that provide complementary information – acoustic tags whose signals are detected by strategically positioned, underwater listening devices (receivers), and two types of satellite tags that relay information on where the tiger shark is and/or its depth in the ocean” (GHOF). To learn more about this project click here

Protect What You Love

The Cayman Islands is home to 365 dive sites that are visited from people from all over the globe. For those of us who are lucky to call the Cayman Islands home, we have a moral obligation and duty to protect our oceans, coral reefs and marine life that reside in our waters. It is not only for the betterment of our environment, but for future generations. It is a true privilege to have access to some of the world’s best diving sites and biodiverse reefs. We are fortunate to have one of the most unique experiences to offer ocean enthusiasts when it comes to swimming with stingrays —being home to Stingray City and the Sandbar— a place like no other, with incredible access to interacting with stingrays. Additionally, we have quite a range of shark species that inhabit our waters and are protected under our National Conservation Law. Our marine environment is what makes our islands a popular tourist and dive destination. It is imperative that we do our part to encourage and enact ocean conservation efforts. The tagging of stingrays and sharks is a positive way to gather valuable data to learn more about these magnificent creatures, knowledge that can be shared to educate students, the public and both environmental and scientific communities. It also allows us an opportunity to maintain and improve exsisting conservation efforts.

Photo Credits:
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation
Resources:
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation

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