CI shark species count low

| 06/01/2012

Photograph%20of%20a%20hammerhead%20shark (263x300).jpg(CNS): International marine scientists working in the Cayman Islands over the last few years studying local populations of mega marine fauna, in particular sharks and rays, have found far fewer species of sharks in local waters than they would have expected. Dr Mauvis Gore revealed that although researchers have counted sixteen different types of sharks and rays the scientists had expected to see more than a dozen other species in Cayman. Speaking at a special presentation hosted by the department of the environment, summarising their work the scientists said there was a strong case for Cayman to introduce protection for sharks in local waters.

Dr Gore explained that shark populations are under tremendous pressure all over the world as a result of fishing driven by the fin and other shark product trades as well as for the flesh. Up to 73 million sharks are caught every year which is why “populations are collapsing” and at least 20 of the 360 species worldwide face extinction in the next five years. She explained that the loss of sharks threaten ocean eco-systems as these top predators help maintain healthy reefs.

With no protection against shark fishing in Cayman it is not known how many are killed in local waters each year. “We just don’t have that information,” she added.

CI Shark species (500x375).jpgPointing to a history of shark fishing and export from 1935 the doctor said this had an impact on the local populations. “Sharks mature late and have very few young so they are vulnerable to fishing,” Dr Gore added as she pointed to the modest numbers of sharks and species in Cayman waters. (See list of those found right in white while scientists also expected to see the species listed in yellow)

Over the last three years the experts have notonly been counting sharks but have also tagged some to track the movements of the various species and they found that larger species such as tiger sharks or oceanic white tips are covering considerable ground. This means that any fishing ban or sanctuary that Cayman establishes to try and save its sharks will require the co-operation of other countries in the region. Around the Caribbean so far Mexico, Honduras, the Bahamas and Florida have introduced bans on all or some species of shark fishing.

Although the tracking has helped the scientists learn more about the sharks their failure to even find key species in the area to tag such as hammerheads has limited the research but so far the scientists are able to conclude that Cayman has only a modest number of sharks and a lower than expected variety of species. She also warned that because the sharks do not remain in the country’s marine parks. Dr Gore said the scarcity of hammerheads was a concern given that in the 1970s it was possible to sea schools of this type of shark in local waters. “People think I’m mad when I say this,” she said, given the current scarcity of the species here.

Professor Rupert Ormond explained the studies that have been undertaken to demonstrate the economic value of sharks in the ocean versus being fished. He said that the consumptive value of sharks was around $1.6million a year while the tourism value when they are protected was as much as $60million.

Researchers found around half of the fishermen in Cayman said they rarely or never fish sharks and few admitted to actually deliberately fishing them as most said they caught sharks by accident. Dr Ormond noted however with the lower than expected count there was a strong case for the Cayman Islands to introduce some form of sanctuary or protection and to try and work with neighbouring countries to introduce wider regional protections. He pointed out that mega marine fauna can bring in significant tourist dollars as there is enormous interest among visitors for swimming and diving among local shark species.

Given the important of economics when it comes to persuading people to act to save species he said the case for the tourism dollar that could be generated from people willing to pay to see and swim with sharks and other mega marine fauna was persuasive. But Ormond also noted that a strong population of sharks denotes a healthy reefs and general marine and beach environments that are important to all visitors and residents alike.

Mark Scotland the environment minister referred to the revelations by the scientists as “eye opening” when he spoke part way through the presentations stating that he was looking forward to hearing the recommendations of the scientists.

The shark research is a major collaborative research project coordinated by the DoE between the Save Our Seas Foundation, Marine Conservation International and part funded by the UK’s Overseas Territory Environment Programme (OTEP) it has also been supported by local artist Guy Harvey and his foundation. More recently local beer makers, Caybrew, stepped in to offer financial help from the sales of their award winning beer named for the oceanic white tip. The brewery handed over a check for over $3300 to the DoE, at the event, after collecting 5cents on every can of White Tip sold since the new beer was launched in the summer. 


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Comments (49)

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  1. SMR says:

    The problem is people fear the unseen…. The sharks must be protected no matter what. And I believe if people don’t let belief in nature trump that fear the problem will only grow.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Save the sharks at all costs. That’s all I have to say…. Hate it or love it.

  3. JD says:

    I think the current figures that were ascertained in this study should be used as a baseline, then they should come back in 3 – 5 years and re-investigate the Cayman Islands waters. This type of study is the first of its kind if I am not mistaken. Which should mean it would be your baseline for further studies.


    While many people say they catch and release sharks what about the population who catch sharks and refuse to release to let the sharks die. There is always two sides to a story. I have witness men who caught sharks and instead of releasing back into waters kept the shark to let it die a slow death, the vast majority of people here say they relase but the people who do catch sharks would not come and post on this and boldly say I catch sharks because i want to kill them.


    As stated above this study should serve to be a baseline number in the Cayman Islands.


  4. Anonymous says:

    I have spotted Bull sharks in these waters quite often. Though not as common as other species they are out there.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Next you'll hear these "International Marine Scientists" telling us that our mosquito population is too low and we need to set aside more of our swampland to sustain the mosquitoes and increase their numbers. Of course our Government will swallow it hook line and sinker.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am stunned by some of the different views that are stated on this subject. I hope some of these comments are caused by lack of education about the marine enviroment. If these people are even remotely educated about the surrounding marine life in Grand Cayman and are still thinking this way then i am ashamed to be walking the same land mass with them. It amazes me people can know so little about where they live. Shame


    • Truth Hurts says:

      Many comments on CNS seem driven by an understandable lack of education given the woeful education system Cayman has chosen for itself.  However never let the facts get in the way of defending a position when one can claim that the position forms part of the "culture" or "heritage" of the Cayman Islands.  If anything can be shoehorned into "culture" then it must be accepts or we can fly home.  Now pass me that turtle, as I want some shredded on my morning cereal.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh enough with the "woeful educational system in Cayman) talk. That is just ignorance. In any country you will find that people have differing views on this subject.  Of course those your views may be a little stronger if you actually encounter sharks in your normal living.  

  7. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, ignorance has stimulated a fearful rapport between Man and Shark. Regardless as to whether or not Shark population numbers have actually declined, we must consider the roll and impact they play within our ocean eco-system. All fish and ocean wild life should have some measure of protection in order to preserve the balance within the food chain, which ultimately affects the eco-system. It does not always have to do with Man catching Shark. What a lot of people fail to recognize is that a decline in the local fish and turtle stocks can also affect the Shark populations.

     Many species of Shark have been studied and identified as a transient specie. If there are no fish here to eat it makes sense that they will venture else where. What our Government needs to do is implement, tighten and enforce fishing regulations; The implementation of bag limits, seasons and more screening for poachers. It sickens me to see and hear of all the bragging on poaching turtles, fish, conch and lobsters. And the common excuse of “Well I’m Caymanian and this is my Island so I have a right to all the turtle, lobster and fish I want.” (I’m not saying it’s all Caymanians or Caymanians in general, but the people I have heard the comments from are Caymanian)

    This is my Island too and just because we’ve taken it over from Mother Nature doesn’t mean we have to right to strip the lands and waters barren. Our waters are being turned into a waste land all because we think we have the right. We should be protecting and conserving our waters for our children and our future generations to enjoy and experience. I am proud to say that when my spouse goes fishing he only keeps 1 proper sized fish and releases everything else he catches.

     Where is the lush bountyful Cayman of my childhood?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Caymankind! – Hey you on the "caymankind" xenophobe trip. Enough! Just shut up or leave!

    • anonymous says:

      Not sure what your post really means but one thing I know is the "CaymanKind" is totally a waste of time and is nonsense.

      "be kind to a tourist"??  Most Caymanians only see tourist when they are clogging the roads or driving those white license plate cars the wrong way.  The radio ads are just about as crazy–sophisticated blend of Miami south beach mixed with Caribbean huts? (or something like that). Who comes up with this stuff anyway?

      Fortunately only folks from other countries are the ones in this industry and actually get to meet our tourist because if Caymanians have to be "kind" to them we would be in trouble.

      I have no doubt some government committee or crazy Advert agency came up with this while sitting in an air-conditioned cell in New York, Houston or LA.

      As for protecting the sharks ( not sure from whom as no one here tries to catch them)…more nonsense. Just DOE wasting time instead of looking at real potential damage like the Dump, garbage in the dykes, those jet boats in the north sound, the George Town and Red Bay cruise pier EIAs and such.( and don’t say we need a Conservation law to do that)…just go do it and publish it. If you can go out in a boat to count sharks you can do these things too. Do something that matters.

      But in true cycle of thought….we Caymanians are not 'kind' to our own but a foreign researcher comes here, with a predetermined outcome and we seem ready to change the laws even if what they say is clearly illogical.

    • Anonymous says:

      typical caymankind response……

    • Ex Expat Patty says:

      You know, when I left the Cayman Islands the door to the airplane DID hit me in the ass, and I mean firmly on the ass so as to raise a welt, but it got me away from twits like you. Now I can bait you from the comfort of a developed nation. That must drive you crazy – me back here in a world of opportunity with you luck to earn enough mowing lawns for others (like me) to get a box of Red Stripe. Congratulations on your nation-building efforts. You wanted me off your island and here I am. Party on xenophobe.

      Apologies to the normal nice Caymanians – this twit needs to be made fun of. You guys were really great. Except for this guy, who sucks.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I have been seeing a lot of sharks in the red bay area at the moment. Right next to the location of the new proposed sea captains dock. Mostly reef sharks between 3 and 6 ft. If you want to protect them then maybe we can stop the crazy notion of destroying the marine park there.

    • Anonymous says:

      Amazing nonsense…..the Red Bay dock is INSIDE the reef.  I sure hope you have not seen 'lots of sharks' there. Government may have to shut down the entire Red Bay and South Sound for human use. Funny.

      • Anonymous says:

        YOu obviously know very little about the sharks in cayman waters. They spend much time inside the reef. The reef is about as effective a barrier to the sharks as will be the barriers at pedro to the people jumping. This does not mean you should be worried while your swimming inside the protection of the reef. Its not a new occurence. Its been happening a long time. They know you are there. You obviously dont know they are there.

    • anonymous says:

      Is there no comment too stupid to try to be posted.???

    • anonymous says:

      While I really doubt you have seen any sharks inside the reef at Red Bay, dive in George Town especially out on the outer reefs where the other cruise dock is proposed….tons of them are really there especially on the night dives. I know. If there is a place for a shark sactuary in Cayman it would be there just outside Hog Sty Bay where they feed at night.

    • Anonymous says:

      Its funny how people seem to know it all. Yes i know the dock is inside the reef. yes i saw 3 reef sharks of different sizes and a nurse shark on saturday. all inside the reef. I also saw eagle rays. Juvenile tarpon in schools. Lots of mutton snapper and they were all feeding on the baitfish up against the mangroves. Ive spent my entire life on the water here and know exactly what im looking at and how to find it. I spend a lot of time in Red Bay and rarely see anybody in the water other than fishermen looking for sprats. Maybe if the goverment took the time to monitor the area properly without the use of motorised engines they would really see its full potential as a marine sanctuary.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Relatively and comparatively speaking, Cayman waters haven't been what could be described as "shark-infested" or even shark-prevalent  (I wouldn't venture to say "have never been" – obviously that would span millenia). This can be confirmed by older generations. Therefore, while I'm no scientist, Dr. Gore and her researchers should factor-in that baseline.

    "Pointing to a history of shark fishing and export from 1935". That comment could not honestly be in reference to Cayman. If it is intended to refer to the CI, may I repectfully question Dr. Gore as to what trade in sharks and/or shark products involving the Cayman Islands can be documented?  Shark has never been (I can use that term now) a food staple here and their limited consumption is reIatively recent – directly related to the changing demographics of our population.

    If Dr. Gore's studies are based on the expectation that our waters should inherently be more shark-populated, simply by being tropical, then the results will be skewed. I would suggest that any study should be based on data from historical trends; if none exists, then it is quite unscientific to insert expectations and assumptions. Studies should accurately be based on existing, specific data and perhaps such data is only recent (seemingly the past 3 years). From that point, the data would be valid and these studies will identify changing trends. 

    It is known that shark populations globally are threatened, that is a generic finding. As such, it could be argued that by extrapolating that finding, one could deduce that CI waters are equally affected. Essentially, that might not be incorrect but I could justifiably argue that such an approach is clearly unscientific.

    In this case, please do not generalize the Cayman Islands as is done with almost every other assessment or opinion presented by persons who are not as familiar with our islands as we are.


  11. chris says:

    Protecting the sharks is an awful idea!

    Who are we protecting them from?

    As stated in the article, very few people in Cayman if any intentionally fish for sharks or stingrays.

    I would support protecting the stingrays especially those in the north sound but there is no evidence to suggest that the lack of some shark species in Cayman waters is a result of human activity.

    If some sharks arent found here or the scientists didnt find them then so be it, its not our fault.

    If sharks are protected and the shark population grows to a point where someone is attacked, will we be able to kill that shark?

    What will happen here is those fishermen who unintentionally catch sharks will be criminalised which in my mind is completely absurd and should not be at the top of anyone's agenda considering the real problems we are facing in Cayman today.

  12. Aing says:

    Perhaps Dr Gore should check the government bench in the LA! I suspect she will find a number of sharks represented there including the Bull shark, the Hammerhead, the Spinner, the Lemon and a few other probably hitherto unknown and almost certainly undesirable species!  

  13. Anonymous says:

    At 7.25  Most Caymanians do not kill sharks – we hardly catch any. I have been fishing in these waters for over 25 years and caught 2 sharks and released. The most variety of sharks I have ever seen is spear fishing in East End. 

  14. anonymous says:

    It is very easy to get the sharks back…

    just have DOE pour blood and chum into the water each day, along the reefs. Would not be expensive either because I am sure Fosters, Kirks and the other meat places will donate the stuff to them. We would sure have 'healthy' reefs then.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Diving and seeing a shark is an amazing experience.  These beasts are simply awesome, especially when you realize that they have no interest in eating/attacking you and simply swim gracefully by you.  I highly recomment the experence ; its as easy as going diving, expecially at the East End.   They need to be protected.

    For the shark attack pundits… yes, that can happen, although in Cayman's clear waters this is very unlikely since most shark attacks, from what I have read, are due to mistaken identity. This happens when someone is swimming in murky water and the shark thinks its a seal or other animal.    Thats what happens to surfers in California and even that is quite rare.

    • Anonymous says:

      Apparently we need more bullsharks which is one of, if not the most, aggressive shark in the world

    • Anonymous says:

      unfortunatley your reasoned educated thinking is lost on the caymankind around here…

    • anonymous says:

      Sharks use their keen electro and chemoreception sensors to find their prey. While they do have fairly good eyesight they mainly use other sensors to find and kill. Clear or murky water they will still 'hit' a target that is swimming, struggling or worst bleeding. They can even detect fear of someone in the water similar to some dogs. And they can detect that as far away as several miles. Many sharks travel tremendous distances to feed and mate. It is not unusual for a shark to move from Canada, down the USA eastern coastline, to feed or mate in the Gulf of Mexico. (which is why I am curious about the validity of this study)

      Fortunately, only the Great White, Bull, Oceanic White Tip and the Tiger sharks love tasty humans and will seek us out to eat. They will do this in packs to be even more successful and efficient.

      The other sharks, as some here have suggested, tend to not hunt humans and will swim by more curious than agressive. However a shark is a predator and as the highest animal on the oceanic food chain will eat anything/everything and is not to be trusted in the water unless you have very specific knowledge. Even many who have such knowledge have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are not gold fish.

      Unfortuately we definately do have Bulls, Tigers and White tips here as folks have said. Remember channel swimmer Penny Palfrey. She was shadowed by Oceanic White Tips for hours and hours and only her shark shield kept them from eating her. Her support crew unfortunately even had to kill several as it is clear it was going to brave that electroshield and hit her.

      Yes, there are two sides to the shark story. As the Caymanian fishermen do not catch them nor try to catch them they should be left as is. No need to further protect them and certainly no need to attract more of them. Simple solution. Leave be.



      • Anonymous says:

        You are completely mistaken when you say some species of shark seek out humans as a food sourse and this misinformation given the number of thimbs up shows this lack of real knowledge is wide spread.

        I have dived with tiger sharks on more than 1 occasion and was ignored by them. I know divers who have dived with oceanic white tips.

        It is this fear mongeringthat creats the view that killing sharks before they kill you is the correct way to go.

        Please don't spread misinformation.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Many local people are terrified by sharks and kill them whenever possible.  They have little to no understanding of the sharks beauty and value to the marine environment.

    As a diver in the Cayman Islands I have been close to perhaps several hundred sharks of different species and have never been subject to any aggression by any shark.

    Sharks should be protected in the Cayman Islands. People need to be educated based upon some of the contributions in this thread.

  17. Nature lover says:

    I am sure that studies must have included the North Sound as well. I like sharks and have researched and learned to identify them and have seen many different types here.The list above with the confirmed species of sharks seen and verified here I have seen all of them at one time or another whether in or out of the water or on a boat as I spend alot of time in the water. The bull shark needs to be added to the confirmed list soon, hopefully, because that is a shark I come across frequently in the North Sound especially near the shore or within 300ft out as they like the murky water. The bull shark has the highest testosterone of any animal and can swim/live in fresh water. Many people including myself have even seen orcas/killer whales just off of the Island in East End and North Side. They last whale shark I saw was on the South side of Little Cayman.  Just wanted to let the marine scientists know that there are alot of bull sharks in our waters.   

  18. Anonymous says:

    Have you checked out any of our local clubs?

  19. Anonymous says:

    ask bobo

  20. Jonny says:

    sharks are a sign of a healthy reef, they should be protected, should have been years ago.

  21. Chief Martin Brody says:

    A shark sanctuary???  are you guys nuts?? We already got one two many alligators somewhere in the prospect area waiting to eat someone.

    If the sharks are not here, leave them where they are. "Let lost sharks kept lost".

    By next year we will have some poor tourist eaten on the seven mile beach from a shark from the 'sanctuary' and that will make real good CNN headlines for our tourism industry. I wonder what the 'tourism value" of that will be??? maybe MINUS $200M/year for the next three years?

    This is total nonsence and I hope our government does not fall for this idea of attracting more sharks to our waters. I also sure hope our Government did not pay or contribute to this study.

    Totally NUTS!!

    • Peter Milburn says:

      ignorance is bliss i guess.They are just trying to protect what we have left.Have you ever been in the water with a shark?You might enjoy the experience instead of criticising what you have never been a part of.

      • Anonymous says:

        Peter please stop misleading people,let them know that when you are diving with a air tank that sharks do not trouble you, but i can tell you about four or more sharks attack on people swimming in open water and had to take the reef for dry land, please look at the safety of the people of these Island and the tourist product that we do have and stop creating more expense for the Government.   

        • Anonymous says:

          The people who record shark attacks at the International Shark Attack File throughout the Caribbean and the world do not have any record of Cayman shark attacks that you mention..

          • Anonymous says:

            Go ask Randy Ebanks, the brother of Captain Bryan Ebanks if he knows anything about shark attacks.

            I was on their boat the day before he got his arm ripped off by a BlackTip inside the North Sound  while he was catching their guests lunch.

            If anyone has been spearfishing around here they will be able to tell you just how many sharks there are.

            I have seen and caught and seen every species common to these waters (Caribbean) barring the Great White and Tiger but they are here.


  22. Anonymous says:

    Let me get this right: the researchers found fewer species of sharks than they expected, have no idea how many are killed and anecdotal evidence is that sharks are rarely fished here. That is consistent with the fact that there is no real market for them here. How does this lead to a "strong case" that they need to be protected, again?     

    • Caymanians for Saving the Mosquitoes says:


      YOU ARE PERFECT IN YOUR ANALYSIS!  Outcome clearly determined before the "study" started and only did the "study" to have a way of putting forward this crazy idea.

      Well I say we have a lot less mosquitoes here in these islands than before (proven), they are important part of ecosystem (proven of course, they are natural) and we have evidence (strong evidence) that man have over harvested them and mercilessly killed them since 1968 (very proven see Budget under 'MRCU'). We even found out that the Aedes Aegypti ( really bad ones with yellow fever are completely gone, no trace of them found in my own study- can you imagine?!)

      We need to protect them right away. Bring back the mosquitoes and the Aedes Aegypti by making Grand Cayman their 'sanctuary'. ( and jeez, this study did not even cost anything or waste any DOEs time!! I am happy to take some donations anyway)

      Caymanians, speak out against our Government's brutal slaying of the Mosquitoes NOW! Stand Up now!!

  23. Bueller says:

    You can add Threshers and Six-gill sharks to the confirmed list, both have been caught by people swordfishing in Cayman in the past 2 or 3 years (the latter was released unharmed). A large Bull shark was also reportedly spotted off South Sound a few weeks ago (a couple of paddleboarders apparently needed clean shorts afterwards!) and a Great White was spotted off East End about 4 years ago. Regular (non-oceanic) white-tips also used to be quite common.

    • Anonymous says:

      I've seen lesser electric rays on many of the coral-shoots on north wall dives.  They are less common than the southern stingrays, but they are out there.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have caught a bull shark in south sound from the beach about 5 yrs ago and have the photo to prove it, unfortunately we could not revive it.

      If you want to see how many sharks there are, go spearfishing and you will quickly realise you are not alone in these waters.