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Successful first in-person summit for the Caribbean Shark Coalition

Caribbean Shark Coalition Summit 2022

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.

Caribbean Shark Coalition hosts 1st successful in-person Summit
Photo credit: Drew McDougall, Beneath the Waves- all rights reserved

In Field Training

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 of the Caribbean Shark Coalition Summit 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.

Caribbean Shark Coalition Workshop

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.

Future Conservation

Building collaboration throughout the Caribbean region works to improve inter-island 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.

The workshop is coordinated by the DCNA and BTW and is made possible thanks to funding from Blue Marine Foundation, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-NL) and operational support from GoPro for a Cause.

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About the Caribbean Shark Coalition

CSC members represent a collection of experts from NGOs, local communities, intergovernmental organizations and governments, academia, and policy institutes, and local businesses, working together to advance the study and conservation of sharks and rays found in the waters of the Greater Caribbean.

The CSC will provide cross-disciplinary training, region-wide assessments, and will issue grants to CSC-member projects. The CSC will represent the interests and goals of members and, more broadly, sharks and ray species of the Caribbean at the UN (UNEP-CEP and the Regional Activity Center for the SPAW Protocols of the Cartagena Convention), IUCN-Caribbean, CITES, CMS, CBD, and other international gatherings.

About Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance

The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance is a nonprofit organization created to safeguard nature in the Dutch Caribbean through supporting Protected Area Management Organizations. DCNA seeks to consolidate knowledge and bridge funding gaps for conservation within the Dutch Caribbean. DCNA maintains a central pillar in support, knowledge sharing and communication between the Dutch Caribbean islands.

About Beneath the Waves

Founded in 2013, Beneath the Waves is an ocean NGO using cutting-edge science to advance scientific discovery and catalyze ocean policy, with a focus on threatened species and ecosystems. Led by a group of established and emerging leaders in the marine conservation world, they have initiatives focusing on the conservation of biodiversity and highly migratory species such as sharks throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific Ocean. Their work has generated nearly 100 scientific publications, numerous first-ever discoveries, and they have been involved in the study and conservation of nearly 1 million square kilometers of marine protected areas.

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