SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN - Caribbean sharks have gained a new ally. On July 13th, the eve of Shark Awareness Day 2019, SXM Shark Foundation was launched with a celebration on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. The new foundation will work towards making Sint Maarten a leading country for shark conservation and management in the wider Caribbean region and around the world.
Sint Maarten has a wealth of shark species and the Nature Foundation Sint Maarten (NFSM) has worked closely with the government to develop protective legislation for sharks in its waters. From 2015 to 2018 the NFSM worked together with all Dutch Caribbean islands on the Save our Sharks project to better protect sharks in the Dutch Caribbean. Through the project, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, great advances were made on research, education, and protection. But sharks still face constant threats from exploitation and habitat loss throughout the region, so more work is needed.
Tadzio Bervoets, one of the founding members of the SXM Shark Foundation, and a leader in marine conservation on St Maarten, says “Through the work of the Nature Foundation we have discovered how important this area is to the sharks in the Caribbean, but they face a constant threat. This foundation offers new opportunities so that we can better protect these marvellous animals for generations to come.”
Despite all the good work that has been done, implementation of conservation measures is not widespread and education on the importance of sharks in the marine system is sorely needed. The new foundation aims to not only lead shark conservation and management efforts within the wider Caribbean region but also to set op collaborative projects on shark research and conservation with organisations from Europe, the US, and Caribbean countries. On Sint Maarten, it will work with local organisations to develop conservation and education projects.
Irene Kingma, the foundation president, and Netherlands lead for the Save our Sharks project says “Now that the SoS project has concluded we want to continue the wonderful cooperation with Sint Maarten and we see this as a perfect opportunity to further develop the work we have been doing together.”