St. Maarten protects Elasmobranch Species
Shark Poaching Now Illegal.
Species protected in Territorial Waters of St. Maarten
Published by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation
on 22. October 2011
This is an update on our previous post 07 Oct 2011 St. Maarten bans shark fishing
The Nature Foundation announces that it will be increasing day and night patrols both inside and outside the Man of War Shoal Marine Park specifically to combat illegal shark poaching. The practice of intentionally fishing for sharks has been forbidden since the 12th of October, when the Honorable Minister Franklin A. Meyers temporarily 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 issued. If Sharks are accidentally caught all steps should be taken to release the animal with as little harm as possible.
Recently the Nature Foundation had been receiving reports that individuals are trophy hunting the resident shark population within the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and subsequently killing them. Sharks have a very high value to the ecology of the island and the island coral reef ecosystem and they also are a major attraction to visiting dive tourists. The majority of divers who visit the island hope to see a shark while diving. The Nature Foundation and local dive operators have also been using sharks as a control method for the present lionfish invasion. Less and less sharks are being seen, and those that are being seen have been showing disturbing signs of considerable fishing damage. Populations have been going from approximately twenty individuals to now only two or three being seen in the locations where they are known to frequent.
Sharks are an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs. “If we do not have sharks we will loose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which keeps the ecosystem in balance. Also the majority of visiting divers come to see local coral reefs as well as sharks. A system collapse will occur if we loose these species and this very important tourism product will be lost, that is why this step taken by government is a true milestone in Marine Conservation, allowing the shark population to return to numbers needed to sustain a healthy population” commented Nature Foundation Marine Park Manager Tadzio Bervoets.
The present ban shows Government’s commitment to Marine Conservation and Conservation in general. St. Maarten can now boast to be one of very few countries in the world that recognizes the importance of sharks to both the ecosystem and the economy of St. Maarten. There has already been wide global interest regarding the ban, with both National Geographic and the New York Times featuring the ban in future publications.