GREAT BAY, St Maarten, Thursday, February 28, 2013 - Despite a ban on the intentional capture and harming of sharks and patrols executed to combat illegal poaching sharks are still being harvested from the waters surrounding St Maarten.
Now, a recently conducted Nature Foundation Research Project has shown that the short-term gains made by the poachers could have large and far-reaching economic impacts for the Dutch-speaking Caribbean nation.
The Nature Foundation Report, which falls within a wider Shark Research Project being conducted on St. Maarten, used surveys of dive operators and tourist divers to conclude that a single live shark is worth up to US $884,000 to the economy of the island, as is opposed to just a few dollars dead.
“The majority of divers who come to the island pay top dollar to see sharks in their Natural Environment. These divers also rent cars, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and drink in bars. Taking all of that into account and based on research conducted by the Nature Foundation a single live shark contributes US$884,000 to the economy of St. Maarten annually.
“Sharks are an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs. If we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which in turn keeps the ecosystem in balance,” said a statement from the Nature Foundation.
The Nature Foundation and Dive Operators have also been introducing the invasive Lionfish to sharks in the hope that the animals will control the poisonous fish.
“The reputation of sharks as blood thirsty creatures is largely exaggerated by sensationalist reports. Countries all over the world have recognized the importance of these animals and here on St. Maarten we will continue to put Shark Conservation as a top priority,” stated the report. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)