Last Sunday one of Nature Foundation’s tagged tiger sharks ended up deceased on Plum Bay Beach. The female tiger shark was measured and assessed by the Nature Foundation, as it ended up on French territory the Collectivité removed the shark. The animal was carrying a visible research tag from the Nature Foundation, which provides the data and unique information of the shark.
The Nature Foundation started their Shark Research in 2016 to study the abundance of St. Maarten sharks, their movement patterns and growth, currently not much is known about sharks in our waters. Since the start of the research over 70 sharks are tagged in Sint Maarten waters. This research is being used to increase protection for sharks locally and internationally, as they are a key species to the health of our marine ecosystem. Sharks are apex predators and as such keep the ocean food chain healthy, a food chain which in turn supports regional fisheries.
The dead shark appeared to be tagged by the Nature foundation in May 2018 and was called Sea Trek, named after the Sea trek activity on St. Maarten. “On Sunday Sea Trek had a total length of 2.57 meters, in May 2018 she was 2.26 meters, which means she grew 30 centimeters in length in about 2,5 years. Sea Trek had no visible injuries or signs of being fished on, indicating maybe a natural cause of death. She was found with her stomach thrown out, which could be caused when the animal experiences high levels of stress. Possible scenarios could include; a natural cause of death or due to a stress scenario whereby the shark eventually washed up on shore, or the animal beached during a prey hunt or other activity and died on shore as it was unable to reach back into the sea in time” Explained Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern Manager of the Nature Foundation.
The Nature Foundation also would like to state that they do not approve the misleading ‘Trophy Hunting’ picture whereby workers of the Collectivité are posing as hunters beside the dead shark, which is being held in a disrespectful position, this picture is circulating on Facebook. ‘Tiger sharks are threatened species and are protected on Sint Maarten (dutch side), this picture absolutely shows disrespect to a threatened species and could be interpreted as approval of shark hunting activities by the Collectivité. We hereby ask the Collectivité to respect all dead animals and show their support in protecting this important species for our marine ecosystem and tourist industry’ stated the Nature Foundation St. Maarten.
Sharks are not frightening or dangerous but an important contributor to the ecosystem and important to the local community as they attract valuable dive tourism. Research has proven multiple times that sharks keep the coral reefs clean of sick fish and keep the ocean’s ecosystem in balance. If we do not have sharks, we will lose our coral reef ecosystem and everything which depends on that such as fisheries, dive tourism, beach tourism and the very things which make us a unique island in the Caribbean. Healthy oceans need sharks, we as humans depend on the oceans therefore we need sharks. Last year only 4 people died due to a shark bite on this earth, sharks are not a threat to humans; humans are a threat to sharks as we kill 200 million each year.