The Dutch Caribbean waters are home to more than thirty species of sharks and rays. With the creation of the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary in 2015, these species have received increased attention and protection. The intention of this sanctuary was to create a network of protected habitats stretching across the Caribbean. Currently this sanctuary includes the waters around the islands of Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire.
A recent expedition to the Saba Bank focused on learning more about tiger sharks and how they use this habitat. Saba Bank, located 11 kilometers from Saba, is a submerged atoll world renown for its rich biodiversity. This seamount rises 1800 meters from the sea floor and is topped with over 100 square kilometers of coral reef. This area is the largest national park within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Tiger Shark Expedition was the first of its kind for the Saba Bank. During this project five satellite tags were attached and researchers confirmed the pregnancy stages via ultrasound for two different species of sharks. In total, 56 sharks, including 16 tiger sharks, were identified.
This project was a collaborative effort by the Protected Area Management Organizations of the Dutch Caribbean: Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM), St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA), STINAPA Bonaire, the Aruba National Parks Foundation (FPNA), the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and World Wildlife Fund for Nature- The Netherlands (WWF-NL), Arizona State University, University of Groningen, Beneath the Waves and funded by the Biodiversity Fund of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature- The Netherlands (WWF-NL) and Dutch Postcode Lottery.
Below is a recap of the Tiger Shark Expedition.
Tadzio Bervoets, Director of Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance and Expedition Leader shares an overview of this expedition and explains why collaboration is vital for these types of projects.
This special edition BioNews is the culmination of these efforts. Understanding the shark species that utilize the Dutch Caribbean waters is crucial step in improving conservation measures moving forward.