World wide over 100 million sharks are killed every year as a result of fishing and shark finning activities. Sharks are being driven to the brink of extinction by our ignorance and greed. Thanks to the generous support of the Dutch Postcode Lottery we can now make a real difference! The solution Working with fishermen, local communities and scientists we propose to learn as much as we can about sharks. Building on that knowledge we want to create new ways for islanders to benefit from the presence of sharks in our waters for example as an attraction for tourists. By raising awareness about their plight we want to create support for the creation of safe havens for sharks on our island.
The practice of intentionally fishing and harming of sharks has been forbidden since October 12th 2011, when the Ministry of Economic Affairs 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 or killed. Violators may be punished with jail and a considerable fine may be issued. If Sharks are accidentally caught all steps should be taken to release the animal with as little harm as possible.
The Nature Foundation has been conducting a Shark Conservation Project on St. Maarten which, based on surveys of dive operators and tourist divers, has shown that a single live shark is worth up to USD $884,000 to the economy of the island, as is opposed to just a few dollars dead.
The majority of divers who come to the island pay top dollar to see sharks in their Natural Environment. These divers also rent cars, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and drink in bars. Taking all of that into account and based on research conducted by the Nature Foundation a single live shark contributes $884,000 to the economy of St. Maarten annually. Sharks are an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs. If we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which in turn keeps the ecosystem in balance. The Nature Foundation actively tags and takes measurements of the local shark population.