BVI Wreck Week allowed us to dive several of the wrecks the BVI has to offer, as well as sampling some of the best reef sites too. Our previous blog focused on the wreck of the RMS Rhone, so in this one we will try to give you a taste of the rest of the diving on offer.
And there is a great deal of wonderful diving to tell you about. Our first day of diving did not offer the best visibility due to heavy rain earlier in the week. However, we were taken to a rugged dive site that had Caribbean and Lemon Sharks swimming all around us. If we had been able to see the usual 20m+ I am sure we would have been able to talk of dozens of sharks on the site.
The BVI has plenty of artificial reefs, created from wrecks deliberately sunk. A couple of these are artistic creations from Beyond the Reef. The Willy T is a pirate themed party boat sunk in shallow water that now has skeletons of pirates duelling on the deck and going about their dastardly ways. It is a lot of fun and once you have had your fill, you can head up onto the shallow reef. Shark-plano is a series of three planes that were damaged in a hurricane, that have been turned into shark species and sunk. Both these sites are perfect for the diver that loves a bit of Instagram appeal!
Wreck Alley has a series of three boats sunk to create a super dive site perfectly aligned for a single dive where you can explore them all. Moray eels can be seen free swimming along the decks, huge stingrays back the sandy seabed their home. Turtles cruise past as you make your way around and then up onto the reef for your safety stop.
On every dive we did we saw sharks which absolutely delighted us. The local dive shops seem to be particularly engaged in conserving the reefs, taking part in coral reef restoration, lionfish hunting, cleanups and logging their sightings. We were filled with positivity at the end of each day.
We hope that we can return to do it all again at BVI Wreck Week 2024!
Watch out for our full feature on BVI Wreck Week in the next issue of Dive Travel Adventures coming out in July.
Nick and Caroline were hosted by BVI Wreck Week
The Moorings provided their yacht for the week
Host Dive Centres:
Project SIARC through to the finals of The National Lottery Awards
Project SIARC has been nominated alongside 16 other projects from across the UK to be named National Lottery Project of the Year.
The marine environment in Wales is teeming with life; beneath the often-murky waters are little understood species of shark, skate and ray (elasmobranchs) of conservation importance.
Project SIARC is catalysing links between fishers, researchers, communities and government to collaborate and safeguard elasmobranchs and support a green recovery in Wales.
“We are so grateful for this nomination – it’s thanks to all of our wonderful communities, partners and volunteers working with us to help safeguard and celebrate sharks, skates and rays in Wales”, commented Project SIARC Technical Specialist and regular Scubaverse contributor Jake Davies.
For more information about Project SIARC, visit https://www.projectsiarc.com/.
Silent Reef Keepers: The Fight to Save the Caribbean Reef Shark
The Kingdom of the Netherlands will ask for increased protection for the Caribbean reef shark during next month’s Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPs) on Aruba. Caribbean reef sharks play a critical role in maintaining a healthy reef ecosystem and building resilience within the oceans. This increased protection is critical for ensuring a sustainable future for this iconic species.
The Caribbean Sea is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and a dazzling array of marine life. Among the charismatic inhabitants of this underwater paradise is the Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezii), a species that plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of coral reef ecosystems. In the Dutch Caribbean, these apex predators face mounting threats, but there is hope on the horizon. At the upcoming Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPs), the Kingdom of the Netherlands will seek increased protection for these magnificent creatures by listing this species on Annex III of the SPAW Protocol. Annex III includes plant and animal species which require additional protection to ensure this species is able to adequately recover their populations in the Wider Caribbean Region.
Caribbean reef sharks thrive in warm, tropical waters of the Caribbean region, with a distribution range that stretches from Florida to Brazil. This species is one of the most encountered reef shark species throughout the whole Caribbean Sea. Growing up to 3m (9.8ft) in length, this shark is one of the largest apex predators in the reef ecosystem and is at the top of the marine food web, having only a few natural predators.
In addition to being of great economic value, as shark diving is a major draw for divers from around the world, this species is also critical for maintaining balance within the reef ecosystem. Their presence helps regulate the population of smaller prey species, which in turn, prevents overgrazing on seagrass beds and coral reefs and eliminates sick or weak fish from the population. This balance is essential for maintaining the health and diversity of the entire coral reef.
Despite their ecological and economic significance, Caribbean reef sharks in the Caribbean face numerous threats that have led to a population reduction estimated to be between 50–79% over the past 29 years. In the (Dutch) Caribbean this is mainly caused by:
Habitat Degradation: The degradation of coral reefs and seagrass beds due to climate change, pollution, and coastal development has a direct impact on the availability of prey for these sharks. Loss of habitat reduces their ability to find food and shelter.
Overfishing: Overfishing poses one of the most immediate threats to Caribbean reef sharks. They are often caught incidentally in commercial fisheries, where fishermen are targeting other species, or intentionally, where they are sought after for their fins, used in shark fin soup.
A Call for Increased Protection
There are different organizations and individuals working to protect sharks and their habitats in the Dutch Caribbean. A significant milestone was the establishment of protected areas such as the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary between Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius. Another milestone was in 2019 when the Dutch government adopted an International Shark Strategy. The strategy sets out which protective and management actions for sharks and rays are to be taken by the government in all seas and oceans where the Netherlands has influence (including the Dutch Caribbean). Additional efforts are still needed to create more marine protected areas, enhance enforcement, reduce pollution in the ocean, and promote sustainable fishing practices. These species know no (political) boundaries and their protection requires broadscale conservation efforts within the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.
The Caribbean reef shark is a species of paramount importance to the (Dutch) Caribbean’s coral reefs. With the extra protection being requested during the next COPS meeting in Aruba, there is hope that this species will have a healthy future. By recognizing their ecological significance and the challenges they face, we can work together to ensure a brighter future for the Caribbean Reef Shark in the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.
The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports science communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature-related scientific information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and the press. This article contains the results from several scientific studies but the studies themselves are not DCNA studies. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.
Photo + photo credit: Jim Abernethy-all rights reserved
For more information, please contact: research@DCNAnature.org
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