The Caribbean Shark Coalition (CSC) met for their first in-person summit in St. Maarten from September 12-16, 2022. The workshop brought together stakeholders from 14 different countries to provide in-field training and support towards the long-term goals of building capacity for shark and ray science and conservation in the Greater Caribbean region.
Within the Caribbean, protection for sharks and ray varies from island to island. Even on islands that have established shark sanctuaries or shark protection measures, there are still significant gaps in education, outreach and enforcement. In an effort to build a more unified network for shark and ray conservation, the CSC brought together individuals from 14 different countries across the Greater Caribbean region to share details of their particular challenges and successes, and to provide training on how to properly plan and execute shark conservation projects in their home countries in the future. The CSC was co-founded by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and Beneath the Waves (BTW) in 2020 in response to international calls for enhanced, collaborative conservation efforts for sharks and rays in the Greater Caribbean region.
Working together with the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, SXM Divers and Aquamania, participants spent two days learning how to deploy Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) stations for non-invasive habitat and species monitoring. Participants learned how to deploy and retrieve BRUVs, uniform data collection and recording techniques, and discussed methods and implementation for the devices in future projects.
Participants also received hands on training for properly tagging and handling three species of sharks, including tiger sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and blacknose sharks. These skills include how to set a drum line, how to safely secure and release a shark, standard methods for measurements, application of visual and passive integrated transponder tags and how to take biological samples, just to name a few.
In conjunction with the in-field portion, participants also attended a full-day workshop to review the methodology used in the field and, more importantly, learned how to put this data into action. Dr. Oliver Shipley, Senior Research Scientist at BTW, provided key insight for proper data analysis and visualizations, important for connecting science, policy, and the general public. Tadzio Bervoets, former Director of DCNA, led a roundtable discussion on the number of challenges facing sharks (and marine conservation in general) throughout the wider Caribbean, and invited each participant to provide personal insights into how their individual organizations combat these challenges.
Building collaboration throughout the Caribbean region works to improve interisland communication and build local capacity while also providing a deeper understanding for marine conservation and protection as a whole. Moving forward, connections made throughout this workshop will help influence and shape shark and ray projects in the future.