Nature Foundation, Authorities Investigating Incident
The lifeless body of a juvenile Caribbean Reef Shark was confiscated by the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation after divers reported it on a reef just within the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area. The intentional hunting and harming of sharks has been made illegal in Sint Maarten Waters since 2011. Since 2012 there were 7 incidents of sharks being harmed or killed in the waters surrounding St. Maarten, two of which occurred in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. The practice of intentionally fishing for sharks has been forbidden since October 12th 2011, when the Ministry TEATT banned the practice of intentionally poaching sharks in the territorial waters of St. Maarten. The act of trying to catch by tracking, stalking, baiting, chasing, trapping, hooking, netting, shooting or otherwise hunting – sharks, rays and skates is prohibited and therefore the animals may not be wounded, caught, landed, or killed. Violators may be punished with jail and a considerable fine may be issued. If Sharks are accidentally caught all steps should be taken to release the animal with as little harm as possible. The ban on intentionally harming sharks was further reinforced in June 2016 with Government announcing St. Maarten’s territorial waters as a shark sanctuary.
“It seems as if this animal was caught while fishermen were fishing illegally just inside the Marine Park at night. Instead of letting the animal go the fishermen killed the animal and threw it back on the reef. This is a complete waste and is illegal based on the protected status of sharks on the island. We have been working hard in changing the perception within the community in general and the fishing community specifically about the importance of sharks to our economy and to keeping healthy fish stock in balance,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.
Previous Nature Foundation research has shown that a single live shark is worth up to USD $884,000 to the economy of the island, as is opposed to just a few dollars dead. “The majority of divers who come to the island pay top dollar to see sharks in their Natural Environment. These divers also rent cars, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and drink in bars. Taking all of that into account and based on research conducted by the Nature Foundation a single live shark contributes $884,000 to the economy of St. Maarten annually. Sharks are an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs. If we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which in turn keeps the ecosystem in balance,”
The Nature Foundation is investigating the incident together with local law enforcement organizations.