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Crookedfinger Art: Sustainable Fashion & Art

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Crookedfinger Art is an expression of my person style and creative impulses. – Kim Cadenhead

Meet Kim! 

Kim Cadenhead is the founder of Crookedfinger Art.  Kim has a unique quirk, two crooked pinky fingers, a result of a genetic glitch.  Her little quirk resulted in the inspiration for her company name, it is an ode to her unique characteristic which she embraces and has allowed her to flourish as an artist with her original artistic style.  Kim is passionate about various medias for art projects.  Her portfolio includes: paintings on canvas, mixed media, handcrafted sustainable products and graphic t-shirt designs.  Kim recently took part in an artist workshop in North Carolina.  The workshop gave Kim an opportunity to grow as an artist and finesse her painting skills.  Her experience there lead to her latest creative endeavor a series of floral paintings on both canvas and repurposed wooden trays— both wonderful works of art for home decor.

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Kim is an artist who is inspired by the environment around her and incorporates the very essence of her surroundings into her paintings, handmade items and mixed media projects.  In my humble option, I view Kim’s most recent floral collection as having a touch of influence from impressionist paintings incorporated with her own modern signature style, blending beautifully together.  Her floral paintings from her 2016 collection are my personal favorites.  Kim sells both original canvas artwork and canvas prints.

Sustainable Fashion and Eco Art

Since moving from Toronto, Canada to the Cayman Islands, Kim has visited local thrift shops to gather materials for her latest sustainable art projects.  It is her aspiration to repurpose materials found locally and transform them in sustainable handcrafted products including: beach tote bags, hand tote bags, messenger bags rugs, pot holders, coasters and even mixed media art pieces.

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It is rather astounding when you take a moment to realize the magnitude of materials available that has the potential to be repurposed and used in a sustainable way.  All of her eco-friendly items are handmade.  Kim’s sustainable art pieces have all been made from magazines that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.  Kim is an artist with an eco-conscious mindset.  Her sustainable fashion and home products prove that recycled and repurposed materials can be transformed into chic sustainable products.

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Support Local

Kim’s artwork and eco-friendly products are available for sale at Art Nest Creative Studio, at Pasadora Place.  You can also visit Kim at Camana Bay’s local Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays.

Stay Connected

Follow Kim on Facebook, click here

Follow Kim on Instagram, click here 

Visit her website, click here 

 

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Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet

 

Photo Credit: National Geographic

SEA OF HOPE follows iconic ocean explorer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned underwater photographer Brian Skerry, author and captain Max Kennedy, and their unlikely crew of teenage aquanauts on a year-long quest to secure their future. Deploying science and photography, they hope to inspire the creation of blue parks across an unseen and imperiled American wilderness.

It was an absolute honor to be published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories.  Please visit their website to read my full article Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet.  Sea of Hope is airing 15th January 2017 on National Geographic.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

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Epiphany: How A Family Of Explorers & Conservationists Overcame Their Fears

 

View Epiphany Movie Trailer

A popular definition of epiphany as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is: “A moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.  For me, an epiphany is a sublime moment.  It is an awakening, when your thoughts come into focus and there is a moment of clarity.  The opportunity presents itself as an illuminating thought.  A moment of such great revelation can bring forth incredible things.

I have had the privilege to get to know award-winning filmmaker and wildlife cinematographer Michael Maes and his wife Ellen Cuylaerts, an award-winning wildlife photographer.  They are truly two of the most amazing people I have ever met.  They are inspiring, compassionate, kind, generous, brave and humble people.  I am grateful to know them.  As a family they live intriguing and extraordinary lives as explorers and conservationists.  They explore the world and use their gifts and talents in film and photography to share their passion for conservation with the world.  An underlying message in their documentary Epiphany is the power of film and photography.  I am a firm believer that art whether it is in the form of film, photography, writing or any other genre has the ability to create change and have a positive impact.  The photographs and film both Michael and Ellen share with the world captures stunning encounters with wildlife, marine life and spectacular scenic views of nature.  It serves to remind us this planet is worth fighting for and protecting.  Art has an incredible ability to connect us all on a universal level.

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For Michael and Ellen, film and photography is a means for them to contribute to nature and conservation— a way of giving back.  They use their films and photography to educate, and create awareness about various environmental issues.  A strong image whether captured in a still photograph or a moving picture can evoke emotion, share a powerful message and allow an opportunity for one to be enlightened and enriched.  In particular, a scene in their documentary Epiphany with Whale Sharks captures a collection of beautiful moments spent in the presence of these majestic creatures.  There is utter tranquility within this scene and the Whale Sharks swim gracefully.  The scene showed the majesty of sharks— they are not to be feared but respected.  Other scenes with Oceanic White Tips present the elegant poises and patterns of these sharks as they glide through the water, depicting them beautifully in their natural habitat.  The sharks and divers were able to inhabit the space harmoniously.  It is important to note, the divers still had to remain very vigilant at all times.  Ellen and Michael take great care in the composition of their photography by ensuring they develop a connection with the wildlife during their encounter and allow that to translate in their photography.  By doing so, it creates a powerful image illustrating that there is a story and meaning behind every photograph.  The heart of their photography and film is to remind us all what a privilege it is to live on this beautiful planet and to not take for granted our natural resources, the environment, the ocean and all animals.  There is a great urgency for a united effort and action to happen globally to increase conservation of the environment and protection of all animals.  As advocates for the ocean they are keen to promote awareness of the urgency to protect sharks.  Ellen and Michael use film and photography to promote conservation and help rehabilitate the image of sharks by showing us that sharks are to be respected not feared.  The real fear is a life without sharks.  The reality is if sharks continue to be slaughtered for their fins and their population continues to rapidly decline they will face extinction.  Sharks have been roaming the ocean immensely longer than humans have inhabited the planet.  It would be a great tragedy for sharks to become extinct.  There is no coming back from extinction.

 

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Recently, I had the opportunity to watch their documentary Epiphany a film that is inspiring and moving.  The film left a profound impact on me.  It is a film that I hold dear to my heart, as it was truly special to watch a film friends of mine had made and with such admirable bravery they shared their story with the world.  I implore others to watch their award-winning documentary which is currently available on iTunes.  The documentary touches on a variety of themes: the power of art and film, conservation of sharks, environmentalism, Autism, the unbreakable bond of a family and finding bravery to overcome fear.  Michael and his family are incredibly courageous to share a vulnerable side of their lives and their journey through life with the world.  Primarily, the narrative of the film tells the journey of Ellen and how she finds the bravery to overcome her fear of the ocean.  It is her kids that leads Ellen back to nature.  It is on this journey, Ellen rediscovers her love for photography which allows her to overcome her fear of the water by swimming with sharks and photographing them.  The film also touches on Michael and their kids Margaux and Max leading extraordinary lives with autism.  A takeaway from their documentary is that there is a need in this world to look past each others differences and accept one another as they are.  We are all uniquely different and that is what adds to our individual beauty.  There is a need for society to stop labelling and creating divides due to differences— being different can be a remarkable gift.  A beautiful message within in the film, is the families unbreakable bond.  The diagnosis of Autism running in their family understandably initially created a feeling of isolation, fear and hardship.  However, together as a family they were able to thrive and live out their passions.  All of them having wonderfully marvelous courageous lives.  As a family they inspire us all to live a life of compassion, kindness and bravery.

 

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The power and healing of nature is beautifully interwoven within the story which unfolds throughout the documentary.  Nature serves as a catalyst to connect the family together, strengthen their bond and open doors for amazing opportunities to share their passion for conservation, film, photography and art.  A beautiful synergy is built between the family as they collectively immerse themselves in exploring nature and the depths of the ocean.  A profound message the documentary presents is that Ellen is able to move past her fear of the ocean and develop a trust within nature.  The ocean serves as a bit of a paradox in Ellen’s life, while on one hand it is the foundation of her fear of water, yet on the other, it serves to inspire her to contribute to conservation, follow her passion of photography and connect deeply with her family.  By having nature as an integral component of their lives, the differences within the family does not create walls to divide them, in fact nature bridges the family together and anchors them.  Moreover, through expeditions exploring nature, it brings forth a bravery within each of them to overcome their own personal fears.  Through their conservation efforts and giving back to nature, each of them were able embrace their individualism and remain true to themselves and their passion for the environment, photography, film and art.

Meet Michael Maes

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Michael Maes is a wildlife filmmaker, specialized in big animals and animal behavior. His portfolio (both underwater and topside) covers the polar regions, temperate waters and the tropics. He has a passionate interest for polar bears and Arctic whales.

His work has been broadcast on various national television like Nat Geo Wild, Outside Television, CBC. It also received recognition at a myriad of international film festivals; reflecting the ability to translate the need for wildlife conservation onto the screen.

In 2015 Michael was inducted as cinematographer in the Ocean Artists Society (http://www.oceanartistssociety.org), an organization uniting artists worldwide to raise awareness and protect the marine environment through art. Michael is also a founding Navigator of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (http://www.reefresearch.org), a leading scientific research centre in the Caribbean focusing on coral reef restoration, research on coral resilience, and ocean education.

More About Michael  

Website michaelmaes.com   (Currently Under Construction)

Check out some of his recent Arctic Work:

 

Q & A with Award-winning Filmmaker Michael Maes

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1. What inspired the documentary and for you to tell this story?

Ellen Cuylaerts; my wife; challenged herself to overcome her fear of water and sharks, culminating her personal growth by feeding those feared sharks. That was the story to which many viewers can relate to.

2. What is the heart of the documentary? Or the core message for audiences to take from watching the film?

Basically Epiphany is a story about all of us. Everyone has his or her fears, everyone faces challenges of life, we can all make decisions to alter our paths.

Epiphany shows the viewer setbacks can be turned into strongholds of life itself.

In short, Epiphany is a story of hope.

3. Did you face any challenges while making this documentary?

Apart from logistical nightmares, the complete lack of privacy for our family during the 18 months of filming was very exigent. Although most of the shootings were at dream locations, we constantly had cameras and microphones pointed at or near us. Especially Ellen as I was fortunate enough to be behind the camera for most of the underwater filming and all areal cinematography.

Next would be the communication between the producer (me) and the rest of the crew. Having autism makes it very difficult to communicate my thoughts; up to a point where I even think I “say” something but I actually only “think” it. That has lead to many difficult situations, frustrations and even words. But, ultimately and always thanks to Ellen, we regrouped and were able to finish a gem.

4. What was one key lesson you learned from making this film?

Don’t think what you say but say what you think!

5. Is there a particular scene in the documentary that resonates with you or has the most significant meaning to you?

To me the most emotional scene in the documentary is at the end where Ellen stands strong among tens of sharks circling her and I (you can’t see that of course as I am filming it) am lying flat on the sand at her feet; filming Ellen from that extreme low angle; all the way up to the water surface; sharks everywhere.

That scene grabs me the most as it portrays in images the fact that Ellen conquered her fear, surrounded by sharks yet she is the one who is in charge! There she stands, holding food next to her body, telling the sharks with her body-language to not come in for the food… she… her… your wife… the mother of your two children… surrounded by sharks… I cannot express how powerful that scene is for a filmmaker who’s the husband of the talent…

As a cinematographer that scene also grabs me as it is – excuse-moi the bragging – simply a formidable shot completed by the genius score of music written by the Belgian musician Eric Bettens.

6. What was your favorite filming location?

Honestly? None! They all had their particular challenges and filmic rewards. A favorite moment I could tell you: a close to two hour dive with only Ellen and myself at Tiger Beach. We were down there without bait or chum. We just wanted to have our Zen moment; away from the fuzzy madness of the production. Did we get rewarded for being there: we had three 12 feet tiger sharks and a bunch of lemons and reefies. A mind-blowing peaceful moment! This footage did not end up in the documentary as the sequences were too long and beautiful to cut. Now that Epiphany is released I will review those amazing scenes again.

7. What do you hope this documentary will accomplish? Or what is your goal or hope for this film?

Of course we want to spread awareness on the sad condition sharks are facing globally. But we also want people to think about their own life and take action if they want to. We want Epiphany to bring hope to those whom are trapped in a fixed pattern, caught in a seemingly hopeless situation.

8. What does the film mean to you and your family?

30 months of blood, sweat and tears.

9. Do you believe film and art has the power to help bring positive changes to the environment?

Many of the world’s environmental issues are far out of reach of most people. Pictures and film bring those issues closer to many, though often in the hard “documenting” way – which is good of course.

Bringing the animals and their world to the beholder in all beauty – nature as it is – makes people see the beauty of those animals. This could lessen the fear of the unknown and invoke interest in the animal or its habitat. Every time I get a message from someone I don’t know telling me some work of mine made him or her get interested in that animal or its environment, is a bigger reward to me than a paycheck.

10. Do you find using art and film as a medium allows you to see the impact and changes in the environment differently, than as opposed to just reading about the issues our environment faces?

As I am a person whom thinks in images, I would believe so. However I feel this question should better be answered by an avid and passionate reader.

More Info about Epiphany 

Website            : www.epiphany.movie

Epiphany on iTunes : https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/epiphany/id1169290433

Trailer Epiphany                     : https://vimeo.com/156486645

Special Thanks

Special thanks: Photos and video courtesy of Michael Maes and Ellen Cuylaerts

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For The Love Of Animals: Ian Somerhalder Foundation Medical Emergency Grants

 

Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

A truly heartwarming initiative was started by the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) to aid in the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that have heartbreaking stories of being abused, neglected or suffered a traumatic injury.  These animals are deserving and in need of a second chance.  ISF created their Medical Emergency Program to extend compassion to these animals and assist in aiding to their recovery and wellbeing.  ISF launched their Medical Emergency Grant Program on Valentine’s Day, 2014.  A day symbolizing a commitment of love and compassion towards animals— inspiring others to do the same.  Since the inception of this program, they have helped over 1,000 animals including: cats, dogs, turtles, birds, bats, horses, sheep, cows, sea lions, goats, rabbits, and more.  All have benefited from an ISF Medical Emergency Grant— giving them an improved quality of life, resulting in a touching success stories.  These animal rescues are now living happier lives with their new families in their forever homes. The testimony of these animals show, that animals have an incredible resilience no matter how difficult the hardship they faced.  They also remind of us of the incredible bond animals establish with humans, despite the suffering they endured, once they found a new and loving family in a safe environment they continue to express love unconditionally.

Animals have an exquisitely poignant way of teaching us, through demonstration, how to love and be loved. We learn compassion, as well as expand our perception of the infinite connection to the environment around us, from our creature friends–whether they are furry and lick us, or slither and swim. We owe it to these creatures to provide protection, healing and love. That is exactly why I am so proud that the IS Foundation has launched our first grant program — the Emergency Medical Grant for Animals – Ian Somerhalder

ISF provides grants to both the US and Canada and works closely with dedicated teams of amazing rescuers in various parts of the US and Canada who are on the front line every day finding animals in need of a better life and urgent care.  These admirable individuals advocate on the behalf of these animals.  Animals that receive an Emergency Medical Grant have been found either, abused, neglected or have suffered a traumatic injury.  ISF reviews applications and typically makes a decision within a week.  They then have the money sent out the following week to the treating veterinarians and rescuers.  The ISF Medical Emergency Grant criteria and eligibility can be found on the ISF website, Grant Information Page.  “The purpose of this grant is to provide animal victims a second chance by alleviating their rescuers of the financial stress of treatment so they can focus on facilitating the animal’s adoption into a permanent, loving home” ISF works with individuals, animal rescuers, veterinarians and non-profit organizations seeking to rescue and rehabilitate animal victims.  (ISF)

The ISF Medical Emergency Grants Program has done an incredible job of bettering the lives of so many animals.  Animals that have had the opportunity to recover and rehabilitate now have wonderful success stories inspiring us all to help protect and care for animals in need.  ISF has established a network of dedicated animal rescuers (grantees) and built amazing relationships with them over the past 2 years.  Their collaboration and teamwork has created a positive impact.  An added bonus, the ISF have met so many loving animals that have greatly benefited from their program.  In instances when the animal in need and the rescuer are near by, the ISF take the opportunity to meet with the animal and rescuer(s).  The ISF have shared a plethora of wonderful heartwarming success stories of the animals they have help give a second chance to. To read their success stories visit their grant success page.  Their dedication to provide resources to assist in bringing a life changing positive impact on the lives of animals that have deeply suffered, inspires us all to work together to be a voice for animal victims that have endured a painful hardship.

Must Love Animals

Below are a few success stories of the ISF Medical Emergency Grant

Meet Elsa

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Ozzy

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Twinkle Toes

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

To support the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and stay up-to-date with their projects follow them on Facebook and Twitter or visit their website 

The Cayman Islands: A Haven for Sharks & Rays

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

The Cayman Islands has built its name and reputation primarily on being a renowned diving destination.  Pioneers in our local diving community over the last few decades contributed to building our diving industry into the premier operation that it is today.  They recognized the exquisite beauty our underwater landscape had to offer and have since then made it accessible for locals and tourists to recreationally experience and explore the beauty that lies below the surface for themselves.  With a desire to showcase our natural resources comes with a commitment to preserve them.  Our duty towards conservation for both land and the ocean is beneficial not just from an environmental perspective but also an economic one.  Our tourism industry is strongly tied to our island’s natural resources.  Ergo, an obvious reason to ensure that our natural resources are protected.  Last year on Earth Day (2015), the Cayman Islands officially became a Sharks and Rays Sanctuary.  The sanctuary expands across all three islands.  This is a positive step towards ecotourism as many tourists are keen to visit places that are committed to conservation.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

“I’m extremely grateful that the Cayman Islands recognized the need to make the islands a shark and ray sanctuary. Not only will their protected status benefit the health of the reefs but it’s also a strong statement towards the tourism industry which is an important source of revenue. By protecting our natural resources the Cayman Islands puts itself in the the market of the informed and eco friendly tourist making the right choice for the future generations.” -Ellen Cuylaerts

Sharks in the Water

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

By virtue of us standing by and not acting to protect coral reefs and marine life that are under threat there is a very likely possibility that corals reefs will continue to become degraded and even destroyed.  The caribbean has already lost 80% of its coral reefs.  There is an intricate connection between coral reefs and all marine life.  If keystone species such as sharks continue to decrease in population it will have a tremendous impact on the coral reefs and the marine life that depend on the reefs.  A scary thought that should be racing through everyone’s minds is what if I never see a shark in the water again?  Our fear should be driven by the thought of what will happen to our ocean and the ecosystem if shark populations globally continues to spiral down or worse become extinct.  Sharks are a keystone species and are fundamental to maintaining the health and balance of: coral reefs, marine life and the ocean.  Without their presence there could potentially be a devastating collapse within our fragile ecosystem as their role in keeping our “life support” viable is monumental.  Ultimately, we need a healthy ocean as 70% of the world’s oxygen comes from there.  Healthy shark populations means healthy reefs.  Coral reefs support 1/4 of all marine life.  Healthy reefs means a flourishing population of marine life.  This is beneficial for: our ecosystem, recreational divers, snorkelers and for fisherman.  Balance within our ecosystem is key to benefiting the preservation of the planet, as well as a thriving diving industry, tourism industry and fisherman.

We can’t fail to act to protect our ocean and marine life.  The ocean is often referred to as the heart of the planet.  There seems to be a collective assumption that the ocean is indestructible, that no matter the amount of pollution pumped into the ocean it will always reset itself, that there will always be coral reefs and an abundance of fish, sharks and all marine life.  It is as though we cannot fathom the thought that it could all go away one day.  The reality is the ocean like anything else has its limitations.  We cannot keep testing the ocean’s ability to bounce back.  It is evident that the ocean is under an immense amount stress due to climate change and the rapid decrease in the populations of a multitude of marine species.  For instance, sharks and rays are under threat.  Every year, 70 million sharks are killed for their fins (Fin Free).  In comparison it is reported that targeted Manta Ray populations have declined by an estimated 56% to 88% in recent years (Wild Aid).  With this in mind, there is an urgency for countries around the world to declare their waters as a shark and rays sanctuary.  The more protection coverage of the ocean for sharks and rays will by virtue allow for coral reefs, and fish populations to have time to recover and recuperate.  This is beneficial to everyone.

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Specifically to our waters, current research indicated that we have a lower shark population than expected for a healthy reef ecosystem.  This suggests that our waters need an increase in sharks to ensure our coral reefs can remain healthy.  Shark populations recover over a significant period of time and sanctuaries can provide a safe haven for populations to recuperate.  Presently, there are no comparative ray nor shark surveys specific to our region.  It is difficult to state how our population of sharks and rays compares to other islands in the Caribbean.  However, some research conducted by Marine Conservation International (Research Partners of Department of Environment Cayman Islands) suggests that Cayman’s shark numbers are relatively low in comparison to our Caribbean neighbors.  Notably, numbers will vary from species to species.  However, our waters have a fair population of sharks and rays. Both species are being threatened across the Caribbean and around the world.  Protecting sharks and rays regionally will benefit not only our territory but also on a global scale as it encourages other countries to designate their waters as a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures.  It is evident that the protection of sharks and rays needs to be made as a united effort, and the Cayman Islands is doing their part to help in this initiative.  Now that our waters have been designated as a shark and ray sanctuary there is hope that it  will give our shark population a chance to recover.

A Sanctuary for Sharks, Rays & Coral Reefs

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The sanctuary serves as a haven for our sharks and rays. Our sharks and rays are of great significance to our coral reefs and marine environment both ecologically and economically.  Most importantly their protection is needed to ensure their survival —our ecosystem depends on it.

The sanctuary also serves as a means to benefit our island not only from an ecological standpoint but economically.  The protection of sharks and rays has a direct impact on benefiting our tourism industry.  Sharks are a highlight for divers.  Whereas, rays can be seen in a large school at Stingray City located at the sandbar on the eastern side of Grand Cayman.  Protecting our sharks and rays within our region will not only allow for a positive impact on improving the health of our coral reefs but also it will help to maintain our status as a popular diving destination.  Flourishing reefs serve us ecologically but as an added bonus they are attractive diving spots helping our tourism industry and economy.

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Declaring Cayman waters as a sharks and rays sanctuary is a positive step towards ecotourism and beneficial for our islands.  Countries making a shift towards ecotourism demonstrates that we can find a balance between developing the economy of a country but not at the cost of losing their natural resources.  It is possible to use our natural resources and benefit from them and not destroy them —rather there is an emphasis on the preservation of natural resources as they have intrinsic value.  Specific to Caribbean islands our natural resources are everything to our tourism industry which greatly impacts our economy.  For Cayman, we could look at the ocean as the very soul of our island.  Our culture is bound to the ocean and it is imperative that we continue to move forward in protecting our ocean, coral reefs, marine life and natural environment.  Cayman’s transition into ecotourism has helped to establish the Cayman Islands as setting a positive example for other islands in the Caribbean by way of encouraging other islands to consider becoming a sharks and rays sanctuary to increase the coverage of areas that serve as a haven for them.  While, our waters protect a small percentage of sharks and rays in our region, and is making a positive impact, it would be greatly beneficial if other regional countries made their waters a sanctuary.  Alone, we can make a small difference, but together we can make a much stronger impact.  Protecting the coral reefs, marine life, sharks and rays is a global need.  

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

This article was also published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories please click here 

Nature is my Gym: Arm Workout

Life in the Cayman Islands pretty much promises an endless summer.  With this in mind, island life   allows nature to be your gym almost all year long.  In our collaborative series, “Nature is my gym” Alicia Proud (Online Health and Fitness Coach) and I will be sharing great outdoors spaces on island that are perfect for outdoor workouts.  Alicia will be sharing easy-to-do workouts to help you get in shape and achieve your fitness goals.  Working out in nature has so many positive benefits.  For one, hello sunshine! Soaking up the sun is an instant mood booster— Vitamin D naturally helps boost positivity.  Plus, spending time in nature helps you to clear your mind and recharge.  Likewise, a good workout that gets you to break a sweat will for sure make your day.  

A Note from Alicia:

Welcome back….Most of us are always wanting a peachy booty and a flat tummy but don’t forget having shapely strong arms is sexy too!

So here’s 4 good moves you can do anywhere and enjoying the outdoors at the same time. #natureisyourgym

Nature is my Gym: Arm Workout at Dart Park

The Workout:

Exercise 1

Straightforward push-ups. If you can’t do them on your toes don’t worry your knees are just as good. Your chest doesn’t have to touch the ground just go as low as your body will let you. We are not all superman so start gradually. Try 20 push-ups. Break them into smaller groups if you need to.

Exercise 2

Using a climbing frame or a tree branch, pull your body up from the floor or even hang for 10 seconds at a time with arms held at 90degrees. Advanced option try 10 pull ups.

Exercise 3 

No one wants loose arms or otherwise known as ‘bingo wings’ and one of the best moves to eliminate this is good old tricep dips. The further your feet are away from the platform the harder it will be. Keep your knees bent, to begin with, and slowly progress to straight legs in front of you. Aim for 20 reps or until failure.

Exercise 4

Between each arm exercise we want to keep the heart rate up and keep the body moving, so find a bench, tree stump or a step and step up and down off a platform try 20 step ups.

Remember as always to stay hydrated whilst outside especially if you’re in the heat like me. Repeat each exercise 3 times around. 

Stay tuned for the next ‘Nature is my gym’ series.

*Co-Author of this article: Alicia Proud

Alicia is a lover of life and a inspirer to all those wanting to lead healthier more fulfilling lives. Island living, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. Fitness and food is her thing and she believes life’s attitudes and dreams play a huge part in our well being. Always making time for yourself and enjoying life’s free pleasures.

Website: http://aliciaproud.com

Shark Conservation Cayman in a Nutshell

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!

https://www.sharkconservationcayman.com/

Photo Credits: Johanna Kohler, Nathan McCoy, and Tim Codling

Article Written by Guest Writer: Marique Cloete

Meet Our Local Sharks & The People Protecting Them

The Caribbean is famous for being a paradise, rich in colour, biodiverse coral reefs and an abundance of marine life including sharks.  A healthy population of sharks is an indicator of a healthy reef ecosystem and is valuable not only for our marine environment but also for the tourism industry and our economy.  The Cayman Islands is one of the most popular diving destinations in the world and people travel from all over to experience our world renowned underwater world but also for the opportunity to see a shark(s) on their dive.  A survey in 2011 showed that sharks are worth more alive than dead in Cayman. The economic value of an alive shark was estimated to be about US$54 million per year.  So not only do sharks help keep the balance in the marine environment but also add to our islands economy.  The survey also showed that even if tourists don’t want to see sharks while swimming, they do want to know that there is a healthy shark population in Cayman as it is more and more common public knowledge that sharks are threatened but needed for our oceans.  Globally as well as in Cayman, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have proven successful in preserving biodiversity as well as allowing fragile ecosystems an opportunity to recover and declining populations of marine life, including sharks, a chance to replenish. For highly mobile animals such as sharks which have also life characteristics such has slow growth, late maturity and relative few pups, MPAs together with specific shark protection measures have proven to be most effective in order to conserve local populations. Therefore, our island rightly takes great pride in our marine environment, our coral reefs are one of our island’s greatest assets, but we can be equally proud to be a shark sanctuary.  The 100% protection of all shark and ray species within our coastal and offshore waters, under the National Conservation Law, provides the foundation for a healthy shark population in the future.  

Meet The Locals

In the Cayman Islands, 8 species of sharks are commonly found including: Great hammerhead shark, nurse shark, lemon shark, Caribbean reef shark, blacktip shark, tiger shark, Oceanic whitetip and silky shark.  According to Shark Conservation Cayman’s, Sharklogger data, the most commonly encountered shark species by divers are: Caribbean reef shark, Hammerhead shark and nurse shark. Lemon shark, blacktip shark and tiger shark are less frequently seen which is a trend which is also shown by data from Shark Conservation Cayman’s ongoing BRUV surveys.  With such a caring local dive community it is not surprising that some of our island’s resident sharks got names and are welcomed dive buddies.

Scarlett: is a friendly Caribbean Reef Shark. She is an old local resident of East End. She is easily spotted by her dark birth mark on the corner of her mouth, giving her the nickname “Smudge”. Scarlett is known to have a calm nature, making her easy to photograph. She usually comes to say HI when a group of divers enters her home range.

Finn: is a friendly resident nurse shark and is a well-known individual among local divers.  SHE (not he) has a distinctive scar on its mouth probably from a hook encounter years ago. Finn can be found on the West Side of Grand Cayman.  She is known to come very close to divers and sometimes stays to swim along to show divers around. 

The Bash Brothers: are two male sharks found in East End of Grand Cayman, while diving in their home range there is a good chance of seeing them. They are often found swimming together.  One of the Bash Brothers has a distinctive scar on its gills. Sometimes a smaller shark “Little Basher” joins the gang but it’s less common to see it.

The Legend 107: this dominant female Caribbean reef shark is a legend Little Cayman.  The origin of her name comes from her dorsal fin tag number “DOE #107” tagged by Shark Conservation Cayman in 2010.  She is the survivor of a hook that was lodged in her stomach and over the years she has grown to 2.2m.

Big Bertha: is a Caribbean Reef Shark.  She got her name as local divers have watched her throughout her pregnancy.  For over a year, Big Bertha became recognizable by her large growing belly.  Big Bertha gave birth last year.  

Little “Hookie”: a friendly nurse shark on Grand Cayman.  His name as it suggests, is due to a very large fishing hook which was found stuck in his upper jaw for over a year.  He is known to have a very lovely personality and comes close to divers to say “hello” sometimes spending the entire dive cruising around with divers.  Thankfully, at the beginning of June 2018 he got relief from his hook as a dive staff successfully removed it.  Now, he cruises around happily without his once recognizable lip piercing. 

Saving Local Sharks

Shark Researchers have a unique opportunity to work with sharks and gather data to gain a better understanding of sharks.  Sharks come across as one of the most intimidating and feared animals on the planet yet are one of the most misunderstood.  Shark Conservation Cayman is working towards a better understanding of our local shark population since 2008. The shark team works with local communities such as fishermen, divers and children as well as schools to educate and communicate. Their work together with the efforts of caring members from the public, led to the shark protection measures in the National Conservation Law in 2015. Shark Conservation Cayman’s research consists of various methods, including the Sharklogger Network, to study and monitor the local shark population.  Shark Conservation Cayman has also successfully collaborated with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) on a project that deployed satellite tags on Oceanic white tip sharks and tiger sharks.  Research, conservation and outreach done by Shark Conservation Cayman is made possible due to generous donations via the White Tip Conservation Fund from their main supporter the Cayman Islands Brewery, as well as the member of the public and corporations.  Read more details and on their plans for the future in tomorrow’s (Friday) article.

A Career In Shark Conservation

Notes: Johanna Kohler, Dept. of Environment, during the download of the acoustic receiver array on all Cayman islands. Photo Credit: Johanna Kohler

Meet Johanna Kohler, a local shark researcher and conservationist.  Johanna’s work with her team at Shark Conservation Cayman has been instrumental in helping protect sharks of the Cayman Islands, as well as allowing us to have a greater understanding of our local sharks.   

Q&A with Johanna Kohler

1. How long have you been working in shark conservation?
Since 2010, I’ve worked as a volunteer before and during my studies to help various organizations with their shark conservation efforts. In Cayman, I’m working in shark research and conservation with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DoE) and Marine Conservation International, under the name Shark Conservation Cayman, since 2.5 years.

2. What do you love most about shark research?
I love the work on and in the water. Getting to know the shark’s individual character and seeing them in their natural environment. I love finding out how sharks work, what they are up to, how and why they migrate on the big and small scale and how it all fits together to a bigger picture. Sometimes you look at one thing and are able to connect it with another and suddenly you get an “Aha – moment” and are able to explain one aspect of your research questions. Ultimately, I love that with research we are able to understand our shark populations better and better which leads to effective conservation management. In my opinion research is key to a healthy ocean and happy co-existing of all creatures.

3. What are Shark Conservation Cayman’s key methods to protect sharks in the Cayman Islands?
Our research methods include Baited remote underwater video (BRUV) surveys, acoustic telemetry (acoustic tags), public shark sightings and the Sharklogger Network. We also collaborate with the GHOF to satellite tag oceanic white tip and tiger sharks. These various research methods complement each other leading to answer our research questions. We also work with our local communities, such as divers, fishermen, schools and children to educate, share research findings and keep continued open communication. Our work together with the efforts of caring members from the public, led to the 100% protection of sharks and rays within Cayman coastal and offshore waters. The DoE has a conservation unit who enforce our National Conservation Laws in the Cayman Islands, including the protection of sharks.

4. What is biggest struggle in shark conservation?
Human perception of sharks may be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Many years the media and blockbuster movies have mis-portraited sharks as mindless, man-eating monsters. Everyone who has seen a shark in real life knows that this is not true. Sharks don’t deserve this bad reputation but we need to start appreciating the benefits sharks bring to our communities and to the overall marine ecosystem. However, to change the public attitude towards sharks is challenging and needs constant education and communication. In general, a community that perceives sharks as something negative or as nuisance brings various negative consequences for shark conservation such as limited funding, continued fishing globally, accidental catch being killed rather than released and continued fear and myths kept alive.
In Cayman we have been working continuously towards educating our community to help everyone understand that we need sharks in a healthy marine environment for our island and that they do bring socio-economic benefits as well.

5. What is one of the most interesting things you have learned about sharks?
Personally I’m fascinated by behaviour and reproduction. In terms of behaviour not every shark is the same. Every species and every individual within that species has a unique character and behaves differently, like in dogs. Some are curious and come close, others are shy or ignore you and are hardly seen.
When it comes to reproduction, I think it’s pretty cool that different shark species have different ways of reproduction. Some shark pups have even belly buttons! Also, females can store sperm for a long period of time if conditions aren’t right to become pregnant when she mates. She can choose to become pregnant when it suits her. And in some species females are able to clone themselves! That’s a pretty cool super power.

6. Is there a particular species of shark that you most enjoy researching?
To be honest, not really. My favorite shark species are tiger sharks, but all sharks are interesting. Each species is unique and interesting things are yet to be discovered. In Cayman, I love that we are able to dive and see the sharks live in their natural environment as well which is not possible everywhere.

7. What advice would you give to students interested in facilitating real change in shark conservation?
Become a marine biologist, have a passion for sharks and work hard. It’s also important to keep in mind that research needs to go hand in hand with outreach and conservation management in order to effectively work towards shark conservation.

8. How can our local community help contribute to protecting sharks in the Cayman Islands?
There are various ways how everyone on island can help with our research and conservation efforts. If you see a shark, anywhere, during a dive, while on the beach, while fishing, or on the boat, please call it in to the DoE (949-8469) or report it via our website (https://www.sharkconservationcayman.com/report-a-shark/) or Facebook page (Shark Conservation Cayman). Especially fishermen on island are very helpful by telling us when they accidentally caught a shark. They get a really good look at it and are able to give us a lot of great information. The local diving community is also amazing. Local divers, diving centers and dive staff have joined the Sharklogger Network. By participating they help to keep track of our shark populations all year around. Any diver, snorkeler or diving center is welcome to join. Email sharkloggers@gmail.com for more information.
Everyone on island can contribute to protect sharks by not buying or eating any shark meat or shark products (e.g. liver, oil, fins). Also, you can help by raising awareness. Tell your friends and family about the shark protection measures as well as the ecological and socio-economic benefits of having sharks in our ocean.
Lastly, if you are of drinking age, drink more White Tip! The White Tip Conservation Fund from Caybrew is our main support, hence the more you buy the money for our sharks!

9. Why is shark conservation in Cayman so important?

In the Caribbean and worldwide, sharks are indirectly and directly of socio-economic importance. Not only are sharks, as keystone predators, vital in keeping the marine ecosystem healthy and balanced but can also generate direct revenue though tourism. In Cayman our surveys have shown that most tourists come for our pristine waters and vibrant marine ecosystem. Most divers love to see sharks when diving and even tourists that don’t want to see a shark while diving or swimming appreciate knowing that sharks are present because it is a publicly well known fact that sharks are important to our oceans. In Cayman sharks are worth more alive than dead with an estimated yearly economic value of US$ 54 million per year.
Indirectly sharks have further socio-economic benefits. By helping to keep the marine ecosystem in balance, sharks benefit local fisheries and communities.
Therefore, local shark protection measures benefit the Cayman Islands in many ways and has positive effects for local communities as well as tourism.

Article Written by: Laura Butz and Johanna Kohler

Photo Credit: Johanna Kohler

Tipping Point

My brief take on the global impact of the human-shark relationship.

written by Marique Cloete

“Your life is inextricably linked to that of a shark whether you choose to accept it as your truth or not.”

I recently got a puppy. You may ask what this has to do with Sharks. Not much unless you count the fact that he will soon be donning a shark fin life-vest when we patrol the ocean. A recent incident with puppy however got me onto the subject of my article. The two of us were hunting for coconuts in my garden and at one point I hooked a coconut and pulled it down. I shouted “move!” but Puppy being a puppy and not yet fluent in the English language did not artfully step aside as I expected and nearly got in the way of a crashing coconut.

“More humans are killed each year by falling coconuts than by Sharks.”

Sound familiar? This little urban legend gained momentum after a publication by a shark expert in 2002 cited “human death by coconut” being at over 150 annually and way higher than recorded fatalities from shark bites over the same period. While this makes for entertaining google fodder it does appear to be lacking in hard scientific evidence.

A source I deem a tad more accurate is the data published by the International Shark Attack File (“ISAF”), an organization which investigates incidents involving shark-human interaction. In 2017, 155 cases of both provoked and unprovoked shark attacks on humans were investigated globally of which only 5 were fatal. (a whopping 53 of the 155 cases recorded occurred in US waters, surprisingly no mention yet of a giant wall to keep sharks out.)

Why am I focusing on shark attack statistics in an article aimed at conservation? Well, because in my opinion, negative public perception is the greatest challenge that sharks and shark conservationists need to overcome if we have a hope of saving the species. Whether sharks are being killed by willful persecution, ambivalent economic prosperity or just plain ignorance, the fact remains that, globally sharks are being wiped out at rates that (should be) alarming to any person with even a basic understanding of ecology.

Sharks have been on this Earth for over 450 million years. They have survived each of the five preceding major mass extinctions but may not survive the sixth which incidentally we are facing as you are reading this article.

Five human deaths from sharks.

If google is to be believed it is estimated that humans kill about 100 million sharks annually. If you factor in population decline due to habitat loss or ecosystem degradation, the number of human induced shark deaths rises dramatically.

The most recent shark fatality in the Reunion Isles (which at 2 human deaths accounted for the highest concentration of fatalities in 2017 per the ISAF list) lead to 11 time world surf league champion Kelly Slater calling for a daily cull on sharks, a statement which he instantly retracted due to public outcry. Per an article in “Surf Europe” however his validation had already ignited embers smoldering under the surface within the community and the next day saw a fire bomb attack on the offices of the marine reserve and a spate of death threats against conservationists in the area. Shark hunting and certain other commercial fisheries have been closed on the island since the opening of the marine reserve. The tragedy provided the weapon. The motive was always there.

The existence of marine reserves and anti-shark fishing laws in place on islands such as Reunion (and Cayman) shows how far we have come and the leaps and bounds made by global organizations such as CITES and Wildaid in altering public perception needs to be acknowledged.

Per a Wildaid survey done in 2016 on Chinese residents, shark fin consumption had declined by 80% since the first survey done. 93% of participants had not eaten shark in last 6 years and 80% attributed it to the messages spread by the Wildaid anti-finning campaign.

I have no insight into the sampling method used to be able to say whether or not the results from that survey could be projected to the population as a whole. Whilst I would be surprised if that study was representative, the fact that such results can be obtained in Asian markets is still in my opinion a huge win for conservation as is every new species added to the CITES “Protected species” list.

A species can be listed as threatened per the IUCN Red List but that doesn’t automatically result in protected status. In order to achieve “Protected” status a lot of information is needed about a species and it needs to be demonstrated that it is in our best interest to protect.

And this is why research done by shark biologists is so vital.

50 % of shark and ray species are currently threatened or near threatened with extinction. 70 + species of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction. (IUCN)

The science is not merely a means to stave the scientist’s curiosity. It serves a grander purpose.

I titled this article tipping point because I believe we are constantly at a tipping point as it pertains to the health of our oceans and planet and whether we can bring the populations of threatened shark (and other) species back from the brink of extinction remains to be seen.

However if you are of the view that we are too late, I implore you to think differently. There is always something worth saving. But it will not be possible if the masses turn a blind eye.

So if you are still reading at this point I thank you, and please check back here on Friday for my article about Shark Conservation Cayman and see how you can get involved.

Further if you have not already I would strongly recommend watching “Sharkwater”  and “Racing Extinction” two very powerful films. For those residing in Cayman, we are screening “Sharkwater” tomorrow night at the seaside cinema. See our Facebook page for more details.

Happy shark week!

Photo Credit: Marique Cloete

 

This feature was by guest writer: Marique Cloete – Shark Conservation Cayman

About Marique Cloete

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Things I love: The Ocean, Diving, Climbing, Conservation, Food, Travel, Writing & Photography.

Things I don’t love: Apathy & Ignorance

Moved to Cayman Islands from South Africa in 2016 and am in love with this little rock and all the animals that live here (including the Bipeds)

Weird and Wonderful Sharks

Sharks have been roaming the oceans for over 400 million years and there are about 500 different species that we know of.  They are a majestic and fascinating creature.  As apex predators, sharks play a key role in maintaining the health and the balance of the ocean.  Sharks control populations of various marine species that fall below them on the food web, keeping populations at a healthy size and removing weak and sick individuals. All of which supports a healthy marine ecosystem and biodiversity.  Focusses research continues to allow us to learn more about the characteristics and behaviour of various shark species to give us a better understanding of their important role in the marine environment. Sharks are present in all oceans, and a few species including the Bull shark are able to survive in fresh water. Unlike boney fish, the skeleton of sharks is made up from cartilage.  Sharks control their buoyancy by constant swimming. The perfectly shaped fins and tail provide lift, while the oily liver also helps with buoyancy. Most sharks, like many other marine fish, are coldblooded, but some are warm blooded which allows them to grow and swim faster, for example the Great White shark can swim up to 37 mi/h (60 km/h). Although, there is still so much we have yet to learn about the various species of sharks, one thing is clear: sharks are pretty cool animals!

Top 11 Cool, Weird and Interesting Facts About Sharks

1. Whale sharks are the largest species of shark, growing up to 40 ft (12 m) long.  Additionally, they are also the world’s largest fish and feed on plankton.

2. Greenland sharks are rarely seen in the wild and is one of the slowest moving fish ever recorded. 

3. Unlike marine mammals or some other marine species which use echolocation to detect prey, sharks use electrical pulses.

4. Hammerhead sharks are super cool looking.  Moreover, these sharks have a 360-degree field of vision. Newest research has shown that Great Hammerhead sharks spend a up to 90 percent of their time swimming on their side, at angles of between 50 and 70 degrees to be more streamlined, reduce drag and save energy. 

5. Female sharks have much thicker skin and are usually larger in size than males of the same age. The thicker skin protects females during mating when males bite females to hold on.

6. The megamouth shark is one of the rarest sharks. Less than 100 specimens have ever been seen. This shark is a filter feeder, eating plankton, and can grow up to 15 ft (4.6 m) long. 

7. The teeth of sharks are covered in fluoride, which make the teeth cavity-resistant. The chemical fluoroapatite, makes the teeth resistant to acid produced by bacteria. On top of that, sharks are replacing their teeth throughout their lives, which means they have excellent dental health.

8. Some sharks glow in the dark. Lantern sharks are able to make their own light through bioluminescence. In the deep sea, velvet belly lantern sharks emit light on spines to warn predators.

9. Females in some shark species, can clone themselves, which is known as parthenogenesis. This means, a female reproduces without the aid of a male shark. 

10. The thresher shark hunts with its tail! The tail of thresher sharks can grow to half of their body length and is used as a weapon. Thresher sharks stun their prey by cracking their tail like a whip.

11. Female sharks may be pregnant for a long time. Depending on the species, the gestation period for a pregnant female shark ranges from 5 months to 2 years. The spiny dogfish shark has a gestation period of 2 years, the longest confirmed pregnancy for sharks (and also any animal).

Article Written by: Laura Butz and Johanna Kohler

Photo Credits: Ellen Cuylaerts

Shark Tales: 5 Common Shark Myths Debunked

We have all heard our fair share of “Shark Tales”.  These tales have certainly added to the allure, mystery and intrigue around sharks.  The many misconceptions of sharks have led to a myriad of rumours and myths about them some of which keep feeding into the public fear.  Over time, thanks to shark research, many popular shark myths have been debunked.  More and more organizations and media are beginning to share actual shark facts which, rather than add to the mystery, make it clear that sharks deserve our respect and not fear. Below we are sharing 5 popular common myths about sharks debunked.  

5 Popular Shark Myths Debunked

1. Will a shark drown if it stops swimming? This popular myth does not apply to all species of sharks. Sharks will sink to the sea floor if they stop moving but, depending on the species, they may not drown. That being said, most species of sharks would in fact drown if they were to stop moving.  The constant forward movement together with a slightly opened mouth provides water flow over the gills which is required for fish to breathe. So most shark species including the Great White, Mako, and Tiger shark need to swim in order to breathe. However there are some sharks that are able to stop moving and still breathe. In Cayman, the nurse and Caribbean reef sharks are able to rest on the sea floor and actively pump water over their gills.  This way the constant water flow over the gills is still given even when resting. 

2. Are sharks man-eaters and deliberately attack humans? Contrary to common public belief, sharks are not out to get human beings.  Humans are unpalatable to sharks and not on the menu of prey.  Shark incidents do happen, however this is due to mistaken identity.  Between 2001 – 2013, 11 people were fatally bitten by sharks, compared to  364 people that died from a dog bite in the same period.  Even the chances of getting struck by lightning are much higher than a shark incident. Nevertheless, sharks are wild animals and should always be approached with respect but there is no need to fear them. Most of the time, sharks and humans co-exist without any incidents.

3. Are sharks attracted to the smell of blood and urine?  This is also a very common myth.  Sharks are said to be able to detect a drop of blood in the amount of water that is equivalent to an Olympic-sized swimming pool. We can all agree that, yes, sharks have a very good sense of smell.  However, the scent a shark is really attracted to are the amino acids and oils from the blood and guts of marine animals that are on their list of prey. So no, if you pee into the ocean it won’t attract sharks.  Are sharks attracted to human blood? No.  This also means that women can happily swim in the ocean while on their period.  Even if you have a small cut with a few drops of blood in the water, it is unlikely to attract a shark.

4. Do sharks stalk people? Thanks to the opening scene in Jaws, one can see how this myth came about. No, sharks do not stalk people and aren’t lurking in the waters waiting to prey on humans.  Sharks by nature may be curious and investigative of people swimming by.  Some sharks love to stop by divers to check them out but most are rather shy and swim away as soon as they see humans. If a shark does happen to swim passed you, there is a good chance that it will lose interest in you or simply ignore you on its way to something more exciting.  And, no, sharks are not on a mission to hunt and kill people.  Human beings are not on their list of prey.  

5. Do sharks eat all the fish and compete with fishermen? No, they don’t! In contrary, a healthy ocean and reef ecosystem needs sharks in order to maintain a balance.  Sharks not only keep other fish populations at a healthy size but also eat the sick and weak.  This way the ecosystem remains in balance which ensures a stable and healthy fishery.  Healthy fish stocks are important not only for commercial and recreational fisheries, but also for sports fishing and tourism.  So no, sharks don’t eat all the fish on the reef but they do help keep the ecosystem healthy for everyone to enjoy.

Article Written by: Laura Butz and Johanna Kohler

Photo Credits: Ellen Cuylaerts