The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is reporting that a piece of important scientific equipment has been stolen while the Foundation was conducting research on shark populations in the waters surrounding St. Maarten.
The equipment stolen was a so-called Baited Underwater Video System, or BRUV that consist of tourist-grade “Handicam” video cameras in simple underwater housing made of PVC pipe with a bag of ‘Japanese Bait’ on the end of a stick. The housings are held in steel frames and are deployed and picked up after an hour of filming on the seabed. A string of three BRUVS are dropped five hundred meters apart. The Foundation noticed a blue fishing boat retrieving one of the systems and subsequently heading to the direction of St. Barths. The Foundation gave chase but the Boat managed to escape. The authorities on both sides of the island and of St. Barths have been contacted.
“We are appealing to the operators of the blue fishing boat to please return the equipment either to the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, the Reserve Naturelle of St. Martin or the Reserve Naturelle of St. Barths. This is very important scientific equipment and is invaluable to us as a small organization trying to get the information necessary to protect nature on the island,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.
On Sint Maarten the BRUV System is being used in shallow waters as a simple and cost-effective way to monitor the shark population. BRUVS are non-invasive, give permanent records and are remotely controlled, so the animals get closer to the camera and are widely used in shark research in Australia, Fiji, South Africa and many other locations. The data collected will be used to establish behavior and migration patterns and species numbers which can then be used to support fisheries management and mapping for breeding grounds both inside and outside of the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area.