PHILIPSBURG:—-Two years ago the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) organized the first of its kind shark tagging expedition to the Saba Bank and St Maarten as part of the Dutch Postcode Lottery funded “Save our Sharks” project. Eight shark researchers with a support crew and two camera teams captured and tagged tiger sharks on St Maarten and the Saba Bank using an expedition ship. During the expedition, scientists and conservationists from the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM), Florida International University (FIU) and Sharks4Kids equipped five tiger sharks with satellite tags in order to track their movements and presence to determine how best to manage and protect these important apex predators.
Wildlife Computer SPOT (Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting) satellite tags were attached to the first dorsal fin of large tiger sharks. These tags transmit to satellites, which allow the sharks to be tracked through the ARGOS satellite system for up to 4 years. The tag uses radio transmissions, so the satellite unit must be exposed to air in order to transmit. Each time the dorsal fin breaks the surface a geolocation provides an approximate location with an accuracy of up to 250 meters.
Up to now, two tiger sharks with satellite tags named ‘Sea fairy’ and ‘Quinty’ have provided the research team with some interesting preliminary results. The sharks indicate a similar migration track following the Aves Ridge, a ridge in the Eastern Caribbean Sea of about 500 km in length probably of volcanic arc origin.
“The preliminary data we have been receiving is starting to show some interesting results in terms of the migratory patterns of tiger sharks in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. Not only is this data important but it is also critical for the transboundary management of a marine species critical to the health of our Caribbean Sea. Sharks are apex predators and as such keep the ocean food chain healthy, a food chain which in turn supports regional fisheries for example. With recent shark finning and fishing activities occurring in the wider Caribbean including incidents in Curacao, Dominica, and Aruba it behooves nation-states in the Caribbean to establish a Wider Caribbean Management Plan for the species,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Project Manager for the Dutch Caribbean Alli-ance Save our Shark Project.
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