Who are we?
Shark Conservation Cayman is a collaboration between the Department of Environment and Marine Conservation International, supported by the White Tip Conservation Fund from the Cayman Islands Brewery. Together with a network of volunteers, the team is working towards a better understanding of our local shark populations. Shark Conservation Cayman and fellow collaborators work in Cayman to study and monitor our local sharks and improve conservation management in the Cayman Islands.
So how do we do that?
In order to protect sharks we need to study and understand their behaviour and life characteristics and use what we’ve learnt to raise awareness in local communities around the importance of sharks to healthy reefs and our Cayman marine environment.
Since sharks are highly mobile animals with the whole ocean to roam in, studying them is no easy feat. In Cayman we use multiple, complementary methods one of which is “Acoustic Telemetry”. This means we tag a shark with an acoustic tag. Then, by utilizing a network of receivers located around the three Islands, we pick up the signals emitted by the tags and monitor the sharks’ movements. The acoustically tagged sharks also get a bright orange tag on their dorsal fin, so they are easily recognized as a tagged shark.
We also study the behavior and abundance of coastal sharks using baited remote underwater video (BRUV) and diving surveys. Lastly we keep an extensive database of shark sightings made by public volunteer reporters. Yesterday’s article also introduced you to our Sharkloggers, ordinary diving enthusiasts who play a vital role in shark conservation in Cayman, and all while having a blast underwater.
What’s next for sharks in Cayman?
Although worldwide shark research has grown, there is still much we do not know about these animals. Despite their abundance in certain areas, the Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezi) is one of the least-studied large requiem sharks generally. Shark Conservation Cayman places a lot of focus on this species and hopes to enhance study methodologies locally. We would like to know more about where the sharks are going and what they are doing when they are not within our receiver array to help us answer questions like:
Where do they mate?
Where do they pup?
And are we doing enough to protect the areas where juvenile sharks proliferate?
Our goal is to raise enough money to start fitting Caribbean Reef sharks with:
- GPS tags (which allow us to track a shark travelling over a wide geographic area and long period of time);
- Daily Diary tags (which provide detailed information on the movement and behavior of sharks in a short period of time);
- and to buy an ultrasound machine to be able to assess whether female reef sharks that we tag are pregnant.
We need your help
As with anything the equipment is pricey so raising funds is our biggest challenge, you can help us by supporting the various fun future initiatives we will be rolling out, making direct donations on our website or volunteering your skills to help our fund-raising team.
Spreading the word also goes a long way. Tell your friends and family, like and share our social media content and if you ever see a shark whether diving or not, please report it on our website or if you have questions get in touch, we would love to hear from you!
Photo Credits: Johanna Kohler, Nathan McCoy, and Tim Codling
Article Written by Guest Writer: Marique Cloete