This week is Shark Week in St. Eustatius:
“Sharks are magnificent creatures, yet their image has received a bad press,” says Jessica Berkel. And she should know. Berkel is Marine Park Manager with St. Eustatius National Parks (Stenapa) Foundation. On Saturday she launched Shark Week 2018 with a presentation about how Stenapa is supporting global efforts to conserve these fascinating fish.
During Saturday’s presentation at the Old Gin House, Berkel explained that two lines of scientific shark research are currently carried out in Statia.
The first is called Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV). As its name suggests, it involves lowering video equipment beneath the waves from aboard a boat to spot, record, count and classify the different shark species that exist in Statia’s waters.
“This task is not too difficult,” admits Berkel somewhat gingerly. “Our blue Caribbean waters are home to mainly two species, namely The Reef Shark and the somewhat larger Nurse Shark.
“The second line of scientific research is acoustic. Stenapa scientists on Statia and Saba are using satellites to track and trace shark species, particularly the tiger shark. This nocturnal hunter is on the near-threatened list of species.
“For movie buffs who have been traumatised by the Jaws movie, their presence in the Caribbean is not life-threatening. Human arms and legs will not be nibbled since neither of the shark species are remotely attracted to taste of humans on the menu. The real threat to the species comes from shark on the menu.”
Every year, many sharks are killed through human activity – mostly from fishing but also from destructive coastal development. “Many are killed and mutilated for shark-fin soup. Fins are detached from the living fish and the rest tossed into the sea or into a recipe for cat food. But shark meat is worse than cat food. The meat is infected with toxins and absolutely not recommended in the diet for mothers-to-be,” said Berkel.
At least 250 shark species are either threatened or endangered. Hence, Shark Week is to sound the alarm. Not to warn swimmers but to wake up the general public.
[Image: Alfonso González]