As part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance Save our Sharks Project marine conservation practitioners from St. Eustatius and Aruba joined with the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation in learning scientific research techniques related to shark conservation and research. Representatives from the St. Eustatius National Parks Office and the Aruba Arikok National Park spent a week with the Nature Foundation learning shark research methods, including shark tagging techniques, DNA sampling, biological measurements and the handling of the species. “We had an excellent week training together and learning from each other on the best ways to collect scientific data from various species of shark,” commented Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Manager and Save our Sharks Project leader Tadzio Bervoets. “Aruba and St. Eustatius are in the process of setting up their own shark research and conservation programs, so we thought it would be great for Aruba and St. Eustatius to come here to learn from the things we are doing on St. Maarten. At the same time we also learned from our colleagues and were able to add to our own data collection efforts here. Additionally, it is only through sound, properly gathered and strong information that we can continue to advocate for the protection of sharks locally and regionally,” continued Bervoets.
Both Aruba and St. Eustatius will be applying the techniques learned in St. Maarten in their own locations; “Caribbean Shark Conservation requires a regional effort, and this week was a step in the right direction,” commented Giancarlo Nunes, Research and Conservation Manager at the Arikok National Park in Aruba. “The team from St. Eustatius is very grateful for the opportunity to participate in shark research training. It was a good week with great learning experiences and we are eager to get started in St. Eustatius putting this all in practice,” commented Jessica Berkel, St. Eustatius Marine Park Manager.
The DCNA Save Our Sharks Project, funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery, has placed the focus on the conservation of sharks and rays in both the Caribbean and European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The project has used science, education and community outreach and lobbying to establish shark sanctuaries, initiate science programs, and educate the public on the importance of sharks in the wider Caribbean. Initial data from satellite tags deployed on Saba and St. Maarten have shown that there is significant regional movement of the species in the wider Caribbean; “We need to have more research initiatives such as our project here and in Saba and the coming projects in St. Eustatius and Aruba so that we can get a better idea on the status of the species, their migratory patterns and their local distribution in the wider Caribbean. Sharks are critical to the health of the Caribbean Sea but are also one of the most threatened Large Marine Species on the planet,” concluded Bervoets.
The Nature Foundation organized an excellent Shark Week Rum Tasting Event at Buccaneer Beach Bar last week with about a hundred people joined the Shark Week event. The Shark Week Rum Tasting was sponsored by Buccaneer Beach Bar and Bacardi Rum and glasses were distributed by CC1 St. Maarten. The Rum Tasting was the closing party of St Maarten’s Shark Week, which was held by the St Maarten Nature Foundation staff from the 8th until the 16th of June.
“It is time we change our image about sharks, they are not out there to attack and scare people; sharks are swimming in our oceans for more than 400 million years. Healthy oceans need sharks, we depend on our oceans therefore we need our sharks. On average less than ten people die due to a shark bite per year in the entire world, sharks are not a threat to humans, we are a threat to them as we kill 100 million a year” commented Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
The Rum Tasting was a great success, with over eighty people tasting the differ-ent Bacardi Rums and Cocktails poured by the excellent bar tenders. During the event, a beautiful shark painting has been auctioned by Soc from Island 92; the anonymous buyer will receive eternal fame for its support to the Nature Founda-tion. Several donations also came in through the possibility to adopt your own shark or to purchase 4Ocean bracelets, t-shirts, hats and reusable shopping bags. A total amount of $1,800 was collected during the event in support of the Nature Foundation St. Maarten and will be used to continue their shark research and tagging activities. St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.
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.
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.
The Nature Foundation is organizing an awesome adult event for St Maarten Shark Week; a Rum Tasting at Buccaneer Beach Bar on Saturday the 16th of June 2018 from 4pm until 9pm. Attendees will have the opportunity to taste different Bacardi rums. The Rum Tasting will be the closing party for this year’s St Maarten Shark Week which is held from 8th until the 16th of June.
“The shark Week Rum Tasting is sponsored by Buccaneer Beach Bar and Bacardi rum distributed by CC1 St. Maarten. A ticket is $10 which allows you to taste 6 different rums, all proceedings will be donated to the Nature Foundation St Maarten. Come out to enjoy nice rums and help our nature and environment on St Maarten at the same time” stated Nature Foundations Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
During the event an amazing St Maarten made Shark Painting will be auctioned, proceeds of the auction will be totally donated to the Nature Foundation St Maarten to protect St Maarten’s natural environment. Support the Nature Foundation by the willingness to bid high for this unique local Caribbean Reef Shark painting. Bidding is already open and starts at $500, you can send your bid to email@example.com including your name (or company) and contact details. At 8pm on the 16th of June 2018 the highest bidder will receive the painting and eternal fame for supporting the Nature Foundation.
Sharks are the most misunderstood species on the planet as they are repeatedly displayed as villains and being dangerous; however they are actually the victims of humans poaching, finning and overfishing. Worldwide over 100 million sharks are killed per year resulting in half of all shark species being threatened or endangered. It is important that we work together to ensure the survival of our shark populations, therefore the Nature Foundation is trying to bring this awareness to the public by organizing Shark Week.
During the Rum Tasting event, there will be the possibility to support the Nature Foundation by adopting a shark, or purchasing shark week t-shirts, shark hats, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation will be organizing its first Shark and Ocean themed Art Exhibition at the Axum Art Café on the 8th of June 2018 as part of St Maarten Shark Week. The Art Exhibition will be the kick off event for this year’s Shark Week, which will be held from the 8th until the 16th of June 2018.
Sharks are the most misunderstood animals on the planet and are repeatedly displayed as villains and being dangerous. However, the species are actually the victims of human impacts such as poaching, finning, overfishing and irresponsible coastal development pressure. Worldwide over 100 million sharks are killed per year resulting in half of all shark species being threatened or endangered with extinction. It is important that the community work together to ensure the survival of local, regional and global shark populations. Therefore the Nature Foundation is trying to bring this awareness to the public by organizing the annual Shark Week activities.
“The Art Exhibition will showcase the beauty of our oceans and sharks in a very creative way with all the featured art work being made by local artists. The submitted art works are of high quality and very diverse, including a beautiful submission from a seven year old artist. The exhibition will start at 7pm and there will be plenty of time to adore the different art works and all arts works will be up for sale,” stated Ménélik Arnell Manager of the Axum Art Café.
“The Axum Art Café in Phillipsburg is a perfect place for this exceptional exhibition and we are hoping that many people will come out to enjoy the event in order to support our local artists. We also hope that attendees will purchase the beautiful art works and several artists also decided to donate their profits to the Nature Foundation,” stated nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
During all Shark Week events people will have the oppertunity to support Nature Foundation’s shark research by naming a tagged shark or by adopting their own shark! Also during the events 4Ocean bracelets and reusable bags can be purchased to help protect St Maarten’s environment and nature. St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.
Photo caption: One of the submitted Art Work for the ‘Shark and Ocean’ themed Art Exhibition
Cole Bay— The St Maarten Nature Foundation has restarted its shark conservation program as part of the DCNA Save Our Sharks project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. The research is aimed at better understanding the life characteristics of sharks in St Maarten waters including population structure, abundance and migration.
The Foundation has had to suspend its shark research program due to the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. With the relaunching of the Save our Shark Project for Sint Maarten the Nature Foundation aims to continue to conduct scientific research and monitoring into the shark population and changing perceptions about sharks through education and outreach programs.
“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 do they with dogs for example, which kill about 100 times more people than sharks do a 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 Tadzio Bervoets of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation.
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 every ocean, also on St Maarten. 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 Sint Maarten in order to dive with sharks.
The Foundation will also host its Third Annual Sint Maarten Shark week starting on June 8th, with various activities being organized centered on educating the public on the important role sharks play in the ocean environment. The public can keep up to date on shark week activities through the Nature Foundation Facebook page.
Recently the Nature Foundation installed three new acoustic receivers to research the movement patterns of sharks in Sint Maarten waters. Due to Hurricane Irma seven receivers were lost, stagnating the Foundation’s research into shark abundance and movement patters around the island, a project which started in October 2015. This telemetry study is part of the ‘Save our Sharks’ project and executed in collaboration with scientist Dr. Erwin Winter from Wageningen Marine Research of the Wageningen University. It is also part of a larger shark study around Saba, St Eustatius and the Saba Bank and funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.
“Due to additional funding made available from the Wageningen Marine Research, we were able to replace three acoustic receivers on the dive sites the Bridge, the Gregory and Carib Cargo. Four sharks are tagged with small electronic devises (acoustic transmitters) on St Maarten, these transmitters are sending out a unique signal continuously and when it is within 500-800m to a receiver, the shark is detected! This research will provide use essential information about movement patterns of sharks and the size of areas they use, which will help to better protect these significant species and understand their behaviour,” stated Nature Foundations projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
The foundation will look into additional funding to replace another four acoustic receivers to extend the study back to its original size. Previous results of the study already suggested very local movement patterns of Caribbean Reef sharks and Nurse Sharks and movement patterns of tagged juvenile tigers sharks still need to be analysed.
Scuba divers are asked to keep their distance to the installed receivers and their setup, in order to be able to collect data successfully.
Picture: Nature Foundations projects Officer installs an acoustic receiver on the dive site ‘the Gregory’ (photo credit Ocean Explorers Dive Center).
On the 6th of September powerful category 5+ hurricane ‘Irma’ did not spare the underwater world with her large waves and strong underwater motion and surge. Scientific in-water Marine Research conducted the Nature Foundation including the Coral Nursery, Conch and Seagrass Research and the Acoustic Receivers are totally damaged or completely lost.
The Coral Nursery was part of a three year RESCQ project (Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Coral Reef Quality) funded by the European Union Best 2.0 Program in order to restore Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (A. cervicornis) coral reef zones by growing coral fragments in a nursery and transplanting corals at selected restoration sites. Nine coral ladders were located at the dive site ‘The Bridge’ filled with coral fragments. Out of the 255 fragments growing in the nursery only two little fragments have been found back. The strong currents and surge probably pushed the coral ladders down or tore them apart, leaving them covered under sand and sediment. More than one year of intensive research efforts has been totally lost.
Recently the Nature Foundation started a juvenile Queen Conch growth experiment on native and invasive seagrass beds in order to determine nutrition differences for conch growth. The project was a collaboration with Ecological Professionals, Wageningen University and the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute and funded by Statia Terminals, NuStar Energy L.P. and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ). Research structures, temperature and light loggers and tagged conch are destroyed and disappeared from the research locations at the Dry-dock and Barrel mooring in Simpson Bay. Large amounts of mainly invasive seagrass and many juvenile conch have been stripped off, disappeared or killed due to the hurricane.
Eight acoustic receivers were located in St Maarten waters in order to detect the movement pattern of sharks. For this study the Nature Foundation was collaborating with leading scientist Dr. Erwin Winter from Wageningen Marine Research and the Save our Sharks project funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Since the hurricane no acoustic receiver or its structures have been found back so far and all receivers are definitely lost.
Although the Nature Foundation has escaped large-scale damage to their infrastructure with the Office, Marine Park Patrol Vessel and Warehouse receiving minimal damage, the Research Projects are non-existent since the passing of Irma.
The Foundation is looking into major funding options in order to rebuild the marine research set-ups and restart reef and marine monitoring efforts. Especially the Coral Nursery is very much needed, as corals on the reef have been damaged and destroyed by direct and indirect impacts of the massive hurricane. Topper’s Restaurant has generously opened a Go Fund Me page in order to help the Nature Foundation rebuild their Coral Nursery; www.gofundme.com/rebuild-st-maartens-coral-nursery
Picture: Total destruction of Nature Foundation’s Coral Nursery after Hurricane Irma passed.