Sharks not protected despite endangered status

| 12/04/2011

(CNS): Following enquiries by some members of the public about the sale of a scalloped hammerhead shark at Cayman’s fish-market, the Department of Environment (DoE) has said that, despite the fact that globally shark populations are severely threatened with overfishing, there are currently no laws prohibiting the capture or sale of any sharks in the Cayman Islands. Officials said that fishermen often take great care to avoid hooking these animals. Sharks that are accidentally caught are often sold for meat so as not to waste the animal but it is rare that a shark is killed just for the sake of it andthey are protected in marine zones.

Buyers of shark meat should, however, be aware of the potential health risk of eating the flesh because it contains high levels of trace metals such as mercury, which if ingested frequently can become toxic to humans. Furthermore, sharks build up a concentration of ammonia.

Although several species of sharks are occasionally caught in Cayman they are not considered to be a target species.

“There is legislation prohibiting the baiting or chumming of water with the intent of attracting sharks but this is primarily aimed at shark feeding activities. Sharks are of course protected within local Marine Parks and the Environmental Zones but as most species range over much larger areas than the boundaries of the parks, marine protected areas offer little protection for sharks generally,” DoE officials said.

Although sharks are often thought of as dangerous to humans, more and more evidence has shown that they are in fact reclusive and avoid coming into contact with people as much as possible.
Hammerheads are particularly sensitive to the proximity of other large animals and humans due to the number of electro-sense pores these sharks have across their face, making them some of the rarest sharks to encounter on a dive.

Globally all shark populations have declined dramatically, including the scalloped hammerhead, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists as endangered. This means this type of shark is considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. Locally these sharks were sighted with more regularity no more than a decade ago. However, in recent years sightings have diminished for unknown reasons and the current status of local populations of scalloped hammerheads remains largely undetermined.

Regionally the scalloped hammerhead is known to have declined drastically (by around 98%, IUCN) and it is thought that this is largely due to increased commercial fishing pressure targeting mainly tunas and billfish, the DoE’s experts stated. Other shark species facing similar declines in the Caribbean include the great hammerhead and oceanic whitetip (99% declines since the 1950’s in the Gulf of Mexico alone).

“Given the importance of a robust shark population in a healthy marine ecosystem, the Department of Environment is currently involved in a 2 year collaborative study with Marine Conservation International (MCI), the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) at Nova Southeastern University and the Save Our Seas to better understand the current status of sharks in our local waters,” the DoE said in a release following the public concern about the sale of the shark at the local market.

The project is funded by the UK’s Overseas Territory Environment Programme (OTEP) and the Save Our Seas Foundation and will result in comprehensive management recommendations to ensure sharks receive the protection and recognition they so desperately require.

To learn more about DOE’s efforts to understand local shark populations around the Cayman Islands or report a shark sighting please visit the DOE’s website at or alternatively join the DOE’s Facebook group ‘Sharks & Cetaceans: The Cayman Islands.’

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  1. Anonymous says:

    To put peoples thoughts as to the hooking of the sark at rest, I caant tell you that the shark was hooked IN THE MOUTH. I have seen the head. The hook was through the bottom pallet of the mouth. If the line had been cut, only half a foot would be left attached to the animal!
    Also, the head had around 20 machette cuts in it, including several across the eyes. Now you tell me, if the shark was close to death when pulled up to the boat, why would it have been necessary to try to slice it to death.
    The shark was taken when it was healthy, it would have survived just fine had it been returned to the ocean. I am a fisherman, and I know.
    I disagree however with those that challeneg the fishermans right to keep the shark. It is NOT illegal to do so in Cayman. It IS IMMORAL however. Had the fisherman known the shark was an endangered species, do you think he would have kept it? Who knows, hopefully now he does know.

    • Anonymous says:

      yeah you’re the expert… Look at the picture of the jaw cut .. it was obvious that they cut deep threw the jaw to retrieve the hook

      I saw the fish too and like many FISHERMAN say, it was the RIGHT THING TO DO.

      A hook not in the jaw is a deep hook, how far down? well how are you going to find out?

      I have sent this to some friends that are marine biologists and they weren’t shocked or outraged "killing it was the right thing to do"… the longliners, trawlers, bottomnetting boats that throw away 80% by-product are the true culprits. This a just an isolated case.

      If someone butched a cow in George Town and put its head on display there would have been a huge outcry too.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Circle Hook. Do you ever use those? It’s what us non-ignorant fisherman use

    • Anonymous says:

      you obviously have never caught a shark…. i circle hook removal from a marlin sure

  3. Anonymous says:

    In reading the comments it is obvious that the grouper spawning grounds must be protected from over zealous fishermen who care more about the size of their catch than the future of OUR sea.

  4. hammerhead says:

    I know of the boat that caught the shark.. it was during the local swordfish tournament on Sat night – Sunday morning.

    The last thing you want to catch is a shark, especially a big 250lb one. He was hooked in the gut or deep-hooked and would have died a slow death if just cut lose. The humane thing to do was kill it.

    The decision to sell the meat came after a couple guys knew there was demand for the meat. So instead of throw it overboard it went on many peoples plates for dinner.

    I know the non-fisherman or ignorant person might find it hard to believe but move on with your life or go join greenpeace. 

    If this shark was targeted like they are in some areas just for their fins or was one of the hundreds of endangered species caught in driftnets, longliners, bottomnets etc that are by=products and discarded back into the ocean (where no one even knows its happening) then you have a reason to get all upset.



  5. Animaliberator says:

    Gee, a lot of bashing again as to who did what to what. It must be understood that these are not the times of the past anymore when nobody really had to care too much about extinction of just about anything as there was plenty of it all. Caymanians of the past lived and survived to a large extend on what land and ocean provided. Unfortunately, these times have past now and ALL of us must come to the conclusion that indeed we need to conserve whatever little is left particularly in the oceans of the world, not just here alone. Visibility is not that great that we can simple count what is left out there swimming around. So, educating each other is a much better approach in accomplishing the objective rather then accusations and finger pointing. If more people would understand the severity of the situation overall, we do not always need a protective law in place to conserve. What needs to be done first and foremost is much more input from the relevant departments by providing widespread publications in papers, magazines and billboards. Go to www. etc. will not work very well for more information as most people as it seems do not care enough about the evironment as such as it is and believe a ‘stick in in your face’ type approach may prove to work much better. Common sense should also become a lot more common!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Many sharks I have seen while diving around Grand Cayman have fish hooks in their mouths but fortunately the line was broken and the shark survived.

    What I find offensive is the solid wire fishing line used of which I have picked up 400 feet of it on a reef in the marine park off 7 mile beach.

    Why not make shark fishing illegal?  I worry that fishermen are fishing for sharks and if they are not then make shark fishing illegal and everyone is happy. Caught with a shark and loose your boat.

  7. Just Commentin' says:

    There is one species of shark that is in overabundance here in he Cayman Islands and needs culling out of its current habitat as it is a very detrimental and destructive species: just visit the Legislative Assembly building when the Bellicosus Politicus (subspecies UDP or Liaramus) are schooling. This pack of sharks are thriving and doing untold damage.

    They have a voracious appetite and will rapidly deplete the area in which they spawn, leaving only desolation in their wake. They have little substance and are therefore basically a worthless species. They are know to be deceptive and lazy creatures that have no regard for anything other than satisfying their own appetite. They have detestable habits among which are their inclination to spew a vile ejectus when they open their mouth. They are a quite detrimental lot and it is well known that they thrive at the expense of other creatures.

    The current one at the top of the local B. Politicus population, one known to observers as “Attackeeva”, is an especially abhorrent example of the species.

    It is apparent to observers that Attackeeva is not a particularly bright example of his species, and observers are quite puzzled that he has survived for so long. Like all creatures of limited intellect, Attackeeva exhibits very strange and erratic behaviour. He has been known to abandonhis school to make long forays into distant territory for no good reason. Attackeeva asserts his top shark rank and keeps all the other reef creatures in check by resorting to displays of bluffs, threats and meaningless gestures rather than exhibiting any behaviour that would lead observers to believe that there is the least bit of true intelligence behind his antics.

    Attackeeva’s behaviour is apparently aimed at disorienting and confusing fellow creaturesinto allowing him to remain their leader. In most animal species the leader or a school or pack does beneficial things for the ecosystem; not so Attackeeva. Observers have seen little that Attackeeva has done to enhance the ecosystem in which he lives. In this he is typical of the UDP/Liaramus subspecies.

    Most observers agree that Bellicosus Politicus (subspecies UDP or Liaramus) must go as their continued presence around the LA reef will lead to serious degradation of the political, social and economic ecosystem. Amazingly, thus far Attackeeva’s outragous behaviour seems to be working and he remains top shark in Cayman waters.

  8. one nervous turtle says:

    I personally do not have no love for this dangerous fellow,if our fishermen could get rid of them all then we would be able to go ocean swimming more often!

    • Anonymous says:

      I too am looking forward to the day when our brave fishemen clear this ocean once and for all of all of god’s lesser creatures, making it safe and much more pleasant for me and my family to swim in.

      • petermilburn says:

        You cant be serious!!!!!

      • Frank says:

        “Gods lesser creatures” Sharks are definetley not a lesser creature. They are a perfect specimen of a preditor and were on this planet far before humans were and will be here long after we are gone! Also what you need to remember is that the water is a sharks habitat..not ours. We dont belong there. If you ever get your arm bitten of while driving your civic I will sympathize but until then remember they have a bigger right to be there than we do.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hoping you meant to be humorous but if not maybe if you read the article you would learn something new!

      "Although sharks are often thought of as dangerous to humans, more and more evidence has shown that they are in fact reclusive and avoid coming into contact with people as much as possible."

  9. Bobby Anonymous says:

    Bad news! I’ll bet the tourists just loved the sight of that. If it swims, kill it. If it sells, sell it. Great attitude. Caught by a guy with a small hook to prove him a man.

    Lets get some laws changed (and enforced)on this Island and protect what little we have!!

    • Just Commentin' says:

      I like sharks.
      I admire sharks.
      I am inclined to think like a shark sometimes.
      I follow their example: “If it’s tasty, eat it!”
      (Which is kinda bad for sharks.)

  10. Anonymous says:

     I heard the Department of Immigration is soon introducing APIS at the Airport (Axxhole, Prejudice & Idiot Screening). May of you expats who hate Cayman and Caymanians better watch out for it when entering. We have enough of your type already, plus our own, we don’t need you to add to the xenophobia.  Sorry that it can’t keep our own bigots out when they leave.

    This comment is prompted by the posters who made or inferred negative comments based on nationality. 

    • Just Commentin' says:

      OMG! If they implement APIS, McKeeva will not be able to re-enter the country from his latest soiree abroad. What then?

  11. Anonymous says:

     To 4/12 – 20:54. Why do people like you always have to generalize about "Caymanian attitudes" with negative references?  Do you personally know or have polled every single Caymanian?  Such references are primarily very ignorant and indeed, hateful.

    Obviously you know nothing about fishing. As another poster tried to clarify (apparently with first-hand knowledge), the shark could not be revived after what was perhaps a long fight on the line. Did the fisherman put a sign on his hook "only sharks take this bait"? So after a shark happened to take the bait and expire during the fight, was the angler supposed to just discard it when he pulled it in and discovered he’d caught a shark? Wouldn’t that have been more tragic and purposeless?

    Boneheads like you need to think before you speak or write or simply just shut up!  Better yet, just go back to where ever such ignorant attitudes are welcome.

    • Display says:

      I understand that the shark could have been caught accidently and might not have made it throught the fight getting it back to the boat.


      Does that mean we have to cut the thing up right in the middle of Georgetown Harbour where everyone and there brother can see it being chopped up? To me this is a sign that someone was proud of what they had caught and wanted everyone to see it. This is not good press for Cayman, I would hate to see what would happen to the economy if the scuba divers ever thought about leaving Cayman…..

      • Pending says:

        Its called a fish market, that is what ususally happens at a fish market last time I checked. Go back to your cushy little job and rant about the green iguanas, chickens, dolphins, whatever, get a life.

        Oh, and the fish market has been there in town long before you or any of your animal rights cronies had even heard of the Cayman Islands, it is part of the island.

        Here fishy fishy. Nuff said.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I say All The asian Fishing boats  cutting off shark fins & killing whales should be taken, by force if necessary. whaling is illeagle, but what is done to these XXXXX who still do it? NOT A XXXXX THING! the snakehead fish was released here by "guess who"?!!!! I say its time to start protecting all of these vital species, not just with a law on paper,but with force if necessary. But I know in this "politically correct" age,& with the IDIOTS we have running this country…My complaints are like  "farts in the wind"

    • Jonathan says:

      I will respond to you when my headache passes, you are operating with a dearth of information at this point my friend. Your indignation is wholly righteous but you are equally misinformed on the matter. The Asian community has a high level of responsibility on the matter but as Jesus Christ said, one has to remove the board from one’s own eye before one can attempt the removal of the splinter from his brother’s, or, heal yourself first, doctor. I will expound later my friend. May we all find happy hunting grounds.

    • Jonathan says:

      Okay now, the truth is that the majority of people who practice sharkfinning for the Asian market are not Asian people and are oppurtunistic and in the cruel and wasteful act of taking a shark’s fins and dumping the still living shark back into the sea to suffer an agonizing death are certainly doing something wrong. The Asian market for seafood certainly has some peculiar likes when compared to western tastes but many people of different nationalities practice this, albeit for the Asian market mainly. It is wasteful and sharkfin soup is not on my menu. As for the killing of whales, ditto. As for the snakehead fish, I do not know of them being here but if you know where they are please tell us where as it is news to me. They are freshwater fish and yes they are an invasive species which are causing problems where they have been introduced. Did you mean lionfish?

      I agree with protecting sharks as they are slow growing and slow to reproduce, which when they do is in small numbers. The shark in this instance however was an incidental catch and it’s release was not possible probably as a result of being gut hooked. It is sad to see but as opposed to wasting the meat it is probably the best outcome to an unfortunate situation, if it is true that the shark was unreleaseable. Those who think the only good shark is a dead one have some learning to do, hopefully before it is too late.

      It is probably best to fix the things we are doing wrong in our own fisheries before we start talking about the Asian people though, because it is a slippery slope and really is not even pertinent to this situation. We should however be doing more to protect sharks in our waters as they are very susceptible to population collapse and are harbingers of a healthy sea.
      I consider myself lucky whenever I see one nowadays, although not so much when it is on the chopping block.

  13. Anonymous says:

    sick and very sad…but typical of the caymanian attitude towards conservation and the environment….

    • Anonymous says:

      As a born Caymanian, I totally agree with you. Caymanians know very little and care very little about conservation and the environment.

  14. Anonymous says:

    typical nonsense and fudging from government….just ban the sale of the meat and move on!

    i bet the people at the fish market claim every hammerhead is caught ‘accidently’…..zzzzz

  15. Pending says:

    The shark was caught during the sword fishing tounrament over the weekend and could not be revived which is why it ended up at the market the following day.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been a diver for more than 15 years and the fact that the only scallop hammerhead I’ve ever seen is on a fisherman’s cutting table makes me want to cry.

    I know for a fact that there are many visiting divers that look forward to encounter with such animals while diving in Cayman waters, but seeing it ready to be chopped up it’s a shame.

    Even if there’s no legal regulations on such matters (although there should be) we need to think about all the many species that are already gone or close to being totally wiped out because of us humans.

    We need start changing our mentality about conservation and make a difference for our future generations, so maybe one day they’ll get the chance to learn about this and many species while there still alive and not only from an encyclopedia’s chapter on extinct animals.

  17. expat weirdo says:

    Not impressed at all. I’ve been disappointed with Cayman’s stance on any environmental issue so far, but this takes the cake.

    Why don’t you just tear down the remainder of the trees, pave it all, tear out the mangroves, and allow to Japanese to fish in your waters, that’s the direction you are heading anyway.


  18. Anonymous says:

    Anything that is caught is bought up and chopped up. Nobodys fooling anyone. My Father-In- Law liked to tell a story about being on Seven Mile Beach back in the 60’s when large Manta Rays where often seen off the beach. He had a few visitors whith him and they were snorkeling with a Manta admiring it. A Caymanian dude jumps in, Swims over and spears it with a spear gun and drags it up on the beach so tourists can get their pictures taken with it. Not a lot has changed Bo Bo

    • petermilburn says:

      I remember that incident well.The police were called because someone complained that that what looked like one or two large sharks were swimming up and down the beach.The Mantas wing tips broke the surface and gave the impression of a shark fin breaking the surface.They(and I know who they were)chased the manta ray and killed it with a large speargun.It was consequently dragged up on the beach and buried.If memory serves me correctly Nancy Sefton who took many underwater pictures wrotea poem in its memory called “Ode to Mr. Ray”It was published in the local paper and caused quite a stir among the diving fraternity.
      We need to get the CONSERVATION LAW PASSED!!!!!!!!!!!!