Nature Foundation Visits Several Elementary Schools for St Maarten Shark Week

Last week, during St Maarten Shark Week, Nature Foundation staff visited several Elementary schools to educate children about sharks and their importance to both the natural and human environment. The Foundation visited the following five schools; Sister Regina, Leonald Connor, Learning Unlimited, Oranje School and the Ruby Labega School. The Shark Crew from the Nature Foundation taught about 600 students everything about sharks. The students learned about the different shark species, the importance of sharks for our reefs and tourism, depletion of sharks and why they need our help.

The kids were very enthusiastic about sharks and the marine life, they learned that you shouldn’t be afraid for sharks; sharks are in no way dangerous for humans. Humans kill about 100 million sharks every year, if we continue many shark species will go extinct. Oceans without sharks will have unpredictable and presumably negative impacts for marine life, fisheries and our island, as we depend on our oceans. The school visits were part of the DCNA ‘Save our Shark’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

 

Nature Foundation’s Kids Shark Day great success!

kids in shark customes

On Saturday the 9th of June, the Nature Foundation organized a very successful Shark Day for children at Buccaneer Beach Bar, which was attended by about 100 kids. The kids had great fun and learned everything about sharks through games, quizzes and activities. Kids could even be a real scientist by learning everything about shark research and tagging.

“We have over 400 different shark species in our oceans; you can find sharks in the size of 6 inch up to 40 feet. They are in our ocean for more than 400 million years, reasons enough to protect these species and learn about them! Kids attending the event learned all these facts about sharks, the media often likes to portray sharks as killing machines, however the facts shows us completely the opposite. Occasionally shark bites do happen, however no unprovoked attack has been ever recorded on St. Maarten. It is more likely that you get killed by a coconut falling on your head than by a shark.  It is safe to swim and dive with sharks; it is time to change their image’ stated Nature Foundations Project Office Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

During the event 23 kids attended the special Shark and Art Workshop from Carla Templeton and made beautiful art on specialized tiles, creating the opportunity for the kids to work on their art skills while considering sharks. Environmental Protection in the Caribbean was there as well to teach the kids about mangroves and their importance in protecting our coastlines and fish stocks.

“It looks like Shark Day is getting more popular every year, however this year is the last year of funding through the ‘Save our Sharks’ project. We hope we are able to find a way to continue funding for this great event, as it is getting very famous on St Maarten” says Nature Foundations Project Office Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Thanks to all the volunteers and Buccaneer Beach Bar for making this event happening! St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

kids in shark customes
Dressing up as shark masquotes during shark week

St Maarten Nature Foundation Organizes for the Third Time Kids Shark Day at Buccaneer Beach Bar on Saturday the 9th of June

From the 8th until the 16th of June there will be an entire week dedicated to sharks at the Nature Foundation in St. Maarten. As part of St Maarten Shark Week a day full of shark activities will be organized for the third time at Buccaneer Beach bar on Saturday the 9th of June from 1-5pm. 

During Kids Shark Day different activities will be organized to show the importance of sharks for our reefs, ocean, island and tourism. Sharks, as top predators, play a crucial role in maintaining balance and health within our aquatic ecosystem. Besides, they are important for tourism; many scuba divers love to see sharks, which makes a shark worth much more alive than dead. People often think that sharks eat people. This is a misunderstanding, we are not on the menu for sharks and sharks do not eat people. Occasionally shark bites do happen, however no unprovoked attack has been ever recorded on St. Maarten. It is more likely that you get killed by a coconut falling on your head than by a shark.

 “Kids can learn everything about sharks while having loads of fun during shark day. There will be shark related activities such as; beach games, quizzes, coloring, face painting, claying and a selfie with the shark suite. This year kids can also learn about shark science and our shark tagging research, they can learn the process to tag a shark and use the equipment. The general shark day activities are free of charge and for all ages, we will have goodies and prices to win” stated Nature Foundations Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

 Additional, this year we will have a special workshop during Shark Day to make beautiful Shark art together with the local artist Carla Templeton. During the Shark & Art Workshop kids can show their creativity on astonishing shark tiles under the supervision of Carla. Kids can sign up for the workshop at 1 pm or 3pm, there will be a little fee of $10,- per kid, the workshop will be about 1-1.5 hours, minimum age is 5 years. Send an email to naturefoundationprojects@gmail.com to reserve your spot.

During all Shark Week events, there will be the possibility to support the Nature Foundation by naming or adopting a tagged shark, purchasing 4Ocean bracelets or reusable shopping bags. St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

 

Nature Foundation Visits Schools for Shark Week

Recently, during St Maarten Nature Foundation Shark Week, Nature Foundation staff visited several Elementary schools to educate the kids about sharks, shark conservation and the Caribbean Ecosystem. The Foundation visited six schools; the St. Maarten Montessori School, the Dr Martin Luther King School, the Sr. Borgia School, the Sr Magda School, the Sr Marie Laurence School and the Caribbean International Academy. Through the shark outreach and education program staff presented to roughly 600 students about the importance of sharks and the conservation challenges they face. Students learned about the different shark species, the importance of sharks to reefs and tourism, depletion of sharks and why the species need to be protected. The children were very enthusiastic about sharks and marine life and learned that people shouldn’t be afraid for sharks and that they are in no way dangerous for humans. Humans kill about 100 million sharks every year and if this trend continues many shark species will go extinct. Oceans without sharks will have unpredictable and presumably negative impacts for marine life, fisheries and our island, as we depend on our oceans. The school visits were part of the DCNA ‘Save our Shark’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance does first shark-tagging exercise

PHILIPSBURG–Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) caught and tagged a total of 22 sharks in October as part of a region-wide “Save our Sharks” project.

Little is currently known about the status of shark populations in Dutch Caribbean waters, and tagging studies are a pivotal first step in determining which sharks are present, where they can be found, and most importantly, how best to improve management and protection of these important apex predators, it was stated in a press release.

On board the Caribbean Explorer II, which set sail from St. Maarten, were shark scientists and conservationists from Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM), Florida International University (FIU) and Sharks4Kids. The aim of the expedition was to learn as much as possible about shark abundance and diversity on the Saba Bank. Over the course of the six-day expedition, the team caught 22 sharks.

Sixteen of the sharks were Caribbean Reef Sharks, which were fitted with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, a kind of bar coding, which can be used to identify sharks and track their movements. The other six sharks were Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo Cuvier) and four of these received their own custom fitted satellite tracking device. Tiger Sharks spend quite a lot of time on the surface, which allows satellite tracking devices to be used to track their movements with pin-point accuracy, the release said.

The tagging expedition was organised as part of the Dutch Postcode Lottery funded “Save our Sharks” project, which aims to change the way we think about sharks, and to create safe havens for them by working with fishermen, local communities and scientists.

PIT tags were inserted under the sharks’ skin just below the dorsal fin. PIT acts essentially as a lifetime barcode allowing scientists to track their movements. Veterinarians also use this type of tag to microchip pets, such as cats and dogs.

Satellite tags were from Wildlife Computers Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting (SPOT) tags, which were attached to the first dorsal fin of the sharks. These tags transmit to satellites, which allow the animals to be tracked through the ARGOS system for up to four years. The tags use radio transmissions, so they must be exposed to air in order to transmit. Each time the dorsal fin breaks the surface, a geo location is given with an accuracy estimation of a few hundred meters.

Caribbean Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus Perezi) are throughout the tropical waters of the Western Atlantic and Caribbean and as far south as Brazil. The best place to see them in the Dutch Caribbean is around Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten, where they cruise around the outer edge of coral reefs, pinnacles and near drop-offs. Young sharks prefer shallow coastal waters, such as lagoons, sea grass beds and shallow reefs. Caribbean reef sharks are really not aggressive, except if they are threatened and are typically curious, especially when they see divers, the release said.

Tiger Sharks are one of the largest sharks, with a bulky body, powerful jaws and razor- sharp teeth, strong enough to rip open the shell of a sea turtle. They are one of the oceans’ most powerful predators. Tiger sharks’ diet includes everything from jellyfish and sea snakes to stingrays and seals and their habit of snapping up human garbage has earned them the unfortunate nickname “wastebaskets” of the sea.

Tiger sharks are found all around the world in temperate and tropical waters and typically move into the Caribbean Sea in the winter. Tiger sharks have been sighted so often on the Saba Bank that they have been adopted as the Saba Bank mascot.

Sadly, like Caribbean Reef Shark, Tiger Sharks are classified on the IUCN Red List as “Near Threatened.” Their fins are in high demand in Asia for shark fin soup.

In the Dutch Caribbean, sharks are protected within the “Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary” and conservation groups are working with local fishermen to reduce catch and by-catch of sharks, and to establish a region-wide shark sighting network to learn more about where they live and how we can best protect them.

Nature Foundation starts shark-tagging programme

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Nature Foundation has initiated its shark-tagging programme as part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) Save Our Sharks project, funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. This research is intended to better understand the life characteristics of sharks in St. Maarten’s waters, including population structure, abundance and migration.

Jillian Morris and Duncan Brake of Sharks4kids assisted the Nature Foundation with building gear, catching, handling and tagging the sharks. The team successfully caught, tagged and released eight sharks in St. Maarten in the last few weeks.

The Nature Foundation tagged four Caribbean Reef sharks and four tiger sharks, with lengths varying from four to seven feet. All sharks were measured, equipped with an identification tag and a DNA sample was taken without removing the shark from the water. All sharks were released in good health and may be identified on other locations in the near future.

In October, the Nature Foundation, in collaboration with Saba Conservation Foundation, is to continue the shark-tagging project in the waters of St. Maarten and on the Saba Bank.

“Because of books, movies and news reports sharks have gotten a bad reputation as mindless killers. This is very far from the truth. Although accidents do happen, so they do with dogs, for example, which kill about 100 times more people than sharks do per year. We have been working hard in terms of education, outreach and also science, in this case, to show the population that sharks are not mindless killers and are very important to the health of our oceans,” commented Nature Foundation’s Tadzio Bervoets.

Sharks play a very important role in the oceans, on the reefs and taking care of healthy fish stocks. Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of the ocean. In that role, they keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem. Sharks are also very important to the tourism sector with many divers traveling to St. Maarten to dive with sharks.