DoE seeks public input to save local sharks

| 17/08/2012

Shark in local waters (300x267).jpg(CNS): With many of Cayman's shark species under threat, the Department of Environment is engaging in a public consultation process to see what options people would support to protect these often misunderstood marina animals. Although regarded by some fishermen as a nuisance, sharks are a critically important part of the marine eco-system and also an important attraction to Cayman’s dive tourism. A study undertaken by the DoE has revealed thatsharks could be worth as much as $25 million a year directly, and much more indirectly, to the islands but the various species common to local waters are under increasing threat. DoE officials said Thursday that there is a pressing need to enact legislation to protect their future.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday morning, DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin explained that recent research work involving shark tagging has given a clearer picture of the numbers and the worrying decline. With no doubt that sharks are under threat, the DoE is now looking for input from the wider public on the possible way forward and policy development for their protection.

Nurse sharks may be the species at most risk because they are easily caught on lines and, albeit unintentionally, many become casualties of fishing. But Austin noted that white tips, hammerheads and other species are also at risk and more work was required to understand why numbers have fallen.

While the main study was now complete, Austin said, with the help of donations coming from the sale of the Cayman Islands Brewery's White Tip larger, the tagging project would continue, offering researchers more information on the elusive creatures.

The focus now for the DoE is arriving at the best method of protecting sharks and other large marine animals. Even if people don't recognize the need to protect them from an environmental perspective, the DoE experts believe their economic value should persuade the public of the need to enact legislation to secure their future.

The study shows that the direct value is as much as $25 million but the indirect value could be even more because of the sharks' contribution to maintaining a healthy marine environment, which has a knock-on effect to the wider tourism product.

The department is posing several possible options for protecting the local shark populations, which will also include rays, dolphins and whales. The first is extending marine parks and protection zones, in which all of the species would be protected,.

Another is making Little Cayman alone a safe zone because of the comparatively healthy numbers around the country's smallest island. Alternatively, more protection could be added by extending full protection to all sharks, rays, whales and dolphins throughout Cayman waters, or at least within 12 nautical miles from shore.

As a result of the mobility of local sharks, Austin said, protection zones would not be an immediate quick fix to the problem of declining shark populations but it would be a step in the right direction. Tagging shows that some species, such as white tips, can travel over 80 miles in a day and even move from the Caribbean region into the Atlantic.

Even local tiger sharks are roaming all over the Caribbean, Austin explained, so a 12 mile zone around Cayman has only limited value, but combined with the protections under international covenants, local laws could give the sharks and other large marine species more of a fighting chance. At present, even Cayman's famous stingrays are not protected once they go outside a wildlife interaction zone.

The DoE is appealing to the entire community to fill in the questionnaire by mid September to help guide the future protection policy.  A hard copy is also available from the DoE.

Find out more and fill in the survey

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Category: Science and Nature

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I must help save or protect something that can eat my child or me? No thank you!!!

  2. Anonymous says:



    Stop over fishing in Cayman waters mostly from foreign countries, then keep the pencil neck bureaucrats out of trying to save the wild life and the earth wasting millions of tax payer money every year, and let nature take care of itsself.  Its done a fine job without a bunch of overly sensitive bottom lip quiverring idiotic humans for eons.


  3. Anonymous says:

    I have dived in Cayman waters for close to 2 decades and seen a number of sharks, hammerhead, reef and nurse and not once was a shark aggressive toward me. Ususally they make one distant pass and are gone.

    There are a number of people in Cayman who are afraid of sharks and kill them whenever possible. These people need to be educated.

    Divers who come here and support the local tourist economy are thrillled and excited to see a shark so please realize these beautiful creatures help Cayman.

    When you hear someone bragging about killing a shark please try to enlighten them. Ironically the sharks add more to the economy than the fisherman.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Here's my idea for saving the sharks:  Stop killing them when you're doing stunts to promote the island.  Hey, it's a start.

  5. Shark hugger says:

    Mess with Mother Nature and see what happens.  Cayman needs to do a better job of caring for their environment.  Without the blue, the only thing left here will be Dart and his lackeys.

    For those petrified of sharks, 5 people a year, worldwide, are killed by shark attacks.  In stark contrast, 73 million sharks are killed by man in one year.  Who should be afraid of who? 





    • Anonymous says:

      Shark are like expats both are very important to the Caymanians society and the country will not be able to function without them, impossible to do. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dead nurse shark on the beach near Morrits. Sad state.

  7. Anonymous says:

    These islands are committing environmental suicide along with financial. Live simple, so others can simply live

  8. Anonymous says:

    Oh no, they are on this protect the sharks kick again. Didn't we have that just a couple of months ago, and the same a few months before that? Enough already. 

    • Anonymous says:

      take a chill pill bobo, nobodie's gonna come and take yer car or kids. Just trying to be a little gentler on the world…. our home.

  9. Anonymous says:

    isn't caymankindness enough????….zzzzzzzzzzzzz

  10. Anonymous says:

    My understanding is that the local sharks are really good for the economy. After all, they spend a lot of money at the local bars and many of the tourists (especially single women from the cruise ships) are treated to free drinks and more. We should do everything we can to protect them and if that means making Hammerheads a protected area then let's get on with it.

  11. peter milburn says:

    DOE is NOT responsible for the dump.They have made numerous comments and suggestions over the years but  mostly it all falls on deaf ears That falls under the Dept of Environmental health..Blame the present Govt for all that is wrong with our natural environment and if and when they ever get their fingers out of the pie that they are all stuck in maybe we can get a proper conservation law put in place.It may not be perfect but since we have none to speak of right now it will surely help.For those of you out there that think its ok to destroy all the sharks that are out there you need to get educated.Why do you think we have laws to protect the conch and lobsters and so many other species too numerous to mention here?Its so that we will have something left for our future generations and for those of you out there that dont see that then your children are obviously smarter than you for al leastmost of them are coming to realise that we must protect our future.Stop being so negative about sharks and other marine  species and maybe learn how important they really are to our fragile marine environment.I would be happy to speak to anyone if they wish to learn more.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would like to see DoEH start doing something about all these bush fires in CaymanBrac.  Is it really so hard to rake up leaves and put them in a garbage bag?  That's what leave bags are for.  Or would we prefer to become like Haiti with no vegetation?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Whilst I understand the sentiments expressed here the Cayman Islands has never been in a position to cash in on a thriving shark population in the same way that places likePalau, the Bahamas and the Maldives can.

    Last time I saw a reef shark was on the North Wall in 1993 and sightings of nurse sharks have dropped off dramatically in the last decade.

    DoE would be better occupied dealing with things like the beach erosion being caused by uncontrolled development or the effects of the discharges from places like CUC and the Turtle Farm.  

    • Anonymus-mus says:

      Give up. Thats a good idea. How about encouraging them to deal with both?

      BTW: Erosion/Development is regualted by the Planning Department. CUC & Turtle Farm discharge is regulated by the Water Authority. Sharks are regulated (or not as currently the case) by the Department of Environment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Isn’t that the point of this study to find out? Cayman could very easily cash in on sharks through a well regulated ‘dive with sharks’ program much like Stingray City. Just head out to East End sometime soon and find out how popular it was there in the past. If you You tube search Cayman diving videos the majority of those that are posted are with something significant like a shark! People are interested in the unique things, most Caribbean islands have beaches and reefs.

  13. 6th generation son of the soil says:

    Just ask the National Trust:

    We are shameful as a people.  We wiped out all the turtles and had to go as far as Central America to keep our turtle greed alive- it was beyond our needs, then we moved onto bird guano, goodbye sponges, and ta-ta SHARKS…This generation thinks nothing of overfishing young reef fish and conch.

    The opposite of an enviromentalist is a Caymanian…from a sad son of the soil.

    • Jumbles says:

      "6th generation son of the soil" !!! What is this? Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings?

      • Cay stay says:

        I think the point was, this is someone that is proud to have a long family past here and is upset with the way the we have little respect for our natural surroundings.  Caymanians are not known for their love of sustainability or thought for future genenrations.  A Me & right now society.  Let's hope this generation can change this.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Sharks need to be protected!! Just watch “this is your ocean” by Guy Harvey. Do what the Bahamas did recently and make Cayman a shark sanctuary.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman is already a shark sanctuary, one look around and you will see them coming at you from every angle and they are not the least bit friendly.  Shark are preditors I see them every day.  Cayman should really do what the Bahamas did.

  15. Coco the Tiger Shark says:

    They really need to switch food they're giving the rays at the sandbar… The last one I ate tasted like squid! #Vomit

  16. Man From Foreign says:

    Rubbish! Sharks have little or no direct contribution to Cayman's economy, regardles sof what totally artifical figures you wish to apply to "a healthy marine environment". I understand the importance of predators like sharks in the grand scheme of Cayman's reefs, but $25million is a ludicrous assertion.


    The articlereferes to hammerheads. Guess what a hammerhead's favorite food is. Stingray! Does the DoE think Cayman will be better off with more hammerheads eating up the stingrays? I don't see how that could be a googd thing.


    Even with a complete absense of sharks, their culling effect on the reef fish(their environmental benefit) would be more than made up for by the ever growing pressure from commercial and sport fishing. Said fishing has resulted in an overall decline in fish stocks and is almost certainly the reason for shark numbers declining locally. Less food means they go elsewhere to eat. That's a good thing for Cayman! The disclosure of the presence of tiger sharks in Cayman will have a very negative impact on Cayman's tourist industry!


    DoE needs to focus on more pressing issues than sharks. Things like the overpopulation of green iguanas and the under population of blues is a starting point for animal protection measures. The town dump, as indicated by a previous poster, is a major issue that needs to be addressed. The stench of that thing last week made me think I was in Kingston rather than Georgetown.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dump and rats = Department of Environmental Health. Turtles and sharks = Department of Environment.

  17. Anonymous says:

    What?! Local sharks could be worth 25 million per anum? Are we talking about loan sharks or what? Just another BS initiative by the DOE. I would have thought their time would be better spent figuring out how to best deal with the environmental disaster that is the GT dump and perhaps doing an investigation and giving us some feedback on the new mutant mosquitoes, than this hare-brained idea. After watching shark week, one could hardly describe a decline in the shark population worrying.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you certain you weren't watching the 7-day Jaw's marathon instead? Sure I'm terrified of sharks. However, I know that without them, our waters could and would be a whole lot less pleasant in which to swim. Sharks keep the ecosystem in balance. Disturb that balance and the whole system collapses.

    • Jumbles says:

      "Per anum"?  That was what you were talking out of.

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess it is easier to skim over a one page news article, dismiss it out of hand and tell the DoE that they should do the work of DEH and MRCU, than actually read up on a scientfic study, conducted by local and international experts, and maybe learn something new.