SPAW STAC meeting, Miami 2016

Leading shark protection in the Caribbean.

Miami, November 3rd 2016,

An important first step was taken towards the regional protection of sharks throughout the Caribbean. At the request of the Netherlands, regional governments today recommended eight species of sharks and rays for protection under the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol.

Delegates from 14 Caribbean countries including Caribbean Netherlands (Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire), Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten met in Miami this week to discuss the protection of nature and biodiversity under the SPAW Protocol. This is the only legal instrument for cross-border protection of wildlife in the Caribbean. Through the protocol, signatory countries have made firm agreements to ensure the protection of animals and protected areas throughout the region. To date, no sharks or rays are listed on the Protocol, even though these species are particularly threatened in the Caribbean. Overfishing as well as degradation and destruction of vital habitats such as coral reefs and mangrove forests are the main causes of the decline in shark numbers.

“We are very pleased that our proposal could count on so much support,” said Paul Hoetjes, Senior Policy Advisor for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. “A year ago we were able to establish the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary in the waters around Bonaire and Saba. Management throughout the Caribbean is the logical next step for the protection of sharks.”

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The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs working closely with the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance and in consultation with the Dutch Elasmobranch Association (DES), came up with a shortlist of eight species; three species of hammerhead shark, whale shark, oceanic whitetip shark and small tooth sawfish as well as two species of manta ray have been nominated for inclusion on the SPAW protected species list. These are all species threatened by human activity in the Caribbean, which need protection if they are to survive into the future. This recommendation is an important first step toward permanent inclusion of these sharks and rays on the SPAW protocol. In February 2017 a final vote will ratify the protection for these species.

Tadzio Bervoets, acting chairman of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance and chairman of the Save our Shark Project: “In 2015 we started the Save our Sharks project which aims to set up shark protection in the Dutch Caribbean. It is fantastic that we can now play a role in cross-border management, and are well on our way to providing Caribbean sharks with the protection they deserve. We are confident the proposals will be endorsed at the final ballots in February.”

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Background

Sharks and rays are elasmobranchs or cartilaginous fish. They help to keep our marine ecosystems healthy and productive. As large predators, sharks and rays deliver a vital contribution to the preservation of the natural balance in the ocean, the biodiversity and its sustainable function. All available evidence shows that the number of sharks in the Caribbean region has declined sharply, a development that reflects the large decline in shark populations worldwide. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that one quarter of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, mainly due to overfishing and habitat degradation.

SPAW STAC recommendations:

  • Ratify protection of eight species of sharks, rays and the Nassau grouper as well as Painted bunting (Passerina ciris) and Florida tree snail (Liguus fasciatus)
  • Confirming nomination of Nation Park Cayos de San Felipe, Cuba
  • Enhance GCRMN coral reef monitoring programme
  • Enhance marine mammal conservation
  • Solicite nomination of more protected area and protected species for SPAW listing
  • Analyse ecological connectivity
  • Strengthen networking and capacity building in the region
  • Engage fisheries in marine protected area management
  • Map the 31 SPAW listed protected areas on google-earth
  • Establish a working group on protected areas to prepare a reporting format on the status of the listed sites (for 5-yearly status reporting)

Media coverage included: