KRALENDIJK, Bonaire/COLE BAY, Sint Maarten - All six islands of the Dutch Caribbean are poised to benefit from a new funding initiative provided by the Dutch Postcode Lottery aimed at an essential conservation effort—saving and protecting shark species.
The fund will provide €1.6 million to the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) to assist with the effort of shark conservation on all six islands of the Dutch Caribbean; Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire. The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) is a non-profit organization created to protect the environment and promote sustainable management of natural resources on the six Dutch Caribbean islands.
The Save our Sharks effort in the Caribbean may be the first to attempt a concerted regional approach in the global endeavor to save sharks and is one of the five major shark conservation projects running globally.
Conservation organizations worldwide are focusing on preserving sharks, which are some of the most endangered species on the planet. Science has described at least 500 species of sharks but many species, which have existed since the time of the Dinosaurs, face increasing human-related threats and, for some species, extinction.
The demand for fins and other shark products has driven a number of species close to extinction. More than 100 million sharks are killed each year as a result of fishing and shark finning activities, twice the rate at which they can reproduce. Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover from depletion because they are late to mature and produce few young.
Tadzio Bervoets, Vice-chair of DCNA and Chair of the Save our Sharks Project Committee, commented that all of the Dutch Islands aim to have a level of shark conservation in place at the end of the three year project: “Sharks are some of the most misunderstood species on the planet. For generations we have been led to believe that sharks are the villains of the seas and that they pose a danger to everything that swims in the ocean, including humans.
“But we now know that is very far from the truth; these magnificent creatures are essential to the ocean, and therefore essential to us as islanders because of our intimate connection with the sea. Without sharks we lose that which makes our islands so unique; our marine habitats. That is why we have embarked on this journey with the Dutch Postcode Lottery and our other partners, a journey of protecting these keystone species on all of the six-islands in the Dutch Caribean,” commented Bervoets.
Kalli De Meyer, DCNA’s executive director, also stressed the importance of protecting these critical species; “People need healthy oceans and healthy oceans need sharks, the apex predator of the ocean,” said De Meyer.
In the Dutch Caribbean, sharks face numerous threats from poaching, finning, overfishing and coastal development. With funding from the Dutch Postcode Lottery for this special project, DCNA will focus on Science: learning more about shark species; Education: helping more people learn about sharks; and Legislation: protecting sharks throughout the six islands and ensuring that that protection is adequately enforced.
Island conservation organizations that form the Dutch Caribbean conservation alliance will work with fishermen, local communities, and scientists to study local shark populations. The knowledge they gain will be shared with regional decision makers and other island stakeholders in an effort to create shark sanctuaries throughout the Dutch Caribbean seas.
Conservationists also will work to create different ways for islanders to benefit from the presence of sharks in Dutch Caribbean waters, such as making them a part of the dive tourism industry.
“Sharks are threatened worldwide and some are faced with extinction unless we act and act now. With the help of the Dutch National Postcode Lottery and our partners we will create a safe-haven for these majestic yet misunderstood creatures on our islands. Saving them from extinction and, invariably, saving ourselves as islanders,” concluded Bervoets.