PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Nature Foundation has initiated its shark-tagging programme as part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) Save Our Sharks project, funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. This research is intended to better understand the life characteristics of sharks in St. Maarten’s waters, including population structure, abundance and migration.

Jillian Morris and Duncan Brake of Sharks4kids assisted the Nature Foundation with building gear, catching, handling and tagging the sharks. The team successfully caught, tagged and released eight sharks in St. Maarten in the last few weeks.

The Nature Foundation tagged four Caribbean Reef sharks and four tiger sharks, with lengths varying from four to seven feet. All sharks were measured, equipped with an identification tag and a DNA sample was taken without removing the shark from the water. All sharks were released in good health and may be identified on other locations in the near future.

In October, the Nature Foundation, in collaboration with Saba Conservation Foundation, is to continue the shark-tagging project in the waters of St. Maarten and on the Saba Bank.

“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 they do with dogs, for example, which kill about 100 times more people than sharks do per 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 Nature Foundation’s Tadzio Bervoets.

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 the ocean. 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 St. Maarten to dive with sharks.