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Marine Life & Conservation

Caribbean Shark Coalition launched

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Caribbean Shark Coalition launched to promote training, impact, and collaboration around shark protections in the Greater Caribbean Region

The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and  Beneath the Waves (BTW) have launched the Caribbean Shark Coalition (CSC), an innovative, new platform to bring key stakeholders, researchers, governments and funders together to better collaborate and scale the impacts of science and policy within the entire Greater Caribbean region.

Represented are over 45 new members from NGOs, governments, and local businesses from 24 countries, which have formally joined the CSC to build capacity around research, policy, and education efforts for these threatened species in the region.

The Caribbean plays a key role in advancing the global target of protecting 30% of the worlds’ ocean by 2030. Under this vision, the CSC has three primary goals, which will be carried out through collaborative work and CSC-member projects. Firstly, the CSC will foster collaboration in shark and ray research, policy, and capacity building for conservation among stakeholders, and provide opportunities for knowledge transfer and data synthesis. The CSC will also seek to explore ways in which transboundary protections can be made to better safeguard the long-term health of shark and ray populations. Finally, the CSC aims to promote a sustainable future for these species as well as the human livelihoods who depend on them, by engaging local businesses, stakeholders, and private sector corporations.

This is a historic moment for marine conservation efforts in the Caribbean,” says Tadzio Bervoets, Director of DNCA and a founding team member at the CSC. “We have been calling for transboundary marine protections in these waters, as we know that these apex predators are connecting ecosystems, reefs, fisheries, and nutrients across Exclusive Economic Zones. The CSC will help us to find and address critical knowledge gaps around sharks and rays in the region, and support collaborative research projects.”

Dr. Austin Gallagher, Chief Scientist of Beneath the Waves, shares, “Over the years we’ve had so many stakeholders from throughout the region express their interest in getting engaged in basic research or education around sharks, but a lack of resources or technical or operational expertise limited them from taking action.

He adds, “We hope The Coalition can play a role in creating that friendly, open, and supportive community those voices have been looking for.

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.

For information visit www.caribbeansharks.co

Photo credit: Sami Kattan (all rights reserved)

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Gear News

Fourth Element X Sea Shepherd

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This year on Black Friday, fourth element announced their new partnership with Sea Shepherd, encouraging people to move away from mindless purchasing and to opt-in to supporting something powerful.

For 40 years Sea Shepherd, a leading non-profit organisation, has been patrolling the high seas with the sole mission to protect and conserve the world’s oceans and marine wildlife. They work to defend all marine wildlife, from whales and dolphins, to sharks and rays, to fish and krill, without exception.

Inspired by Sea Shepherd’s mission, fourth element have created a collection of fourth element X Sea Shepherd limited edition products for ocean lovers and protectors, with 15% of every sale going to the Sea Shepherd fund to help continue to drive conservation efforts globally.

“Working with Sea Shepherd gives fourth element the opportunity to join forces with one of the largest active conservation organisations in the world to try to catalyse change in people’s attitudes and behaviour. Fourth Element’s products are designed, developed and packaged with the intention of minimising our impact on the ocean environment, and with this partnership, we will be supporting the work of Sea Shepherd, in particular in their work on dealing with the twin threats of Ghost fishing nets and plastic pollution.”

Jim Standing fourth element co-founder

Read fourth element’s Sea Shepherd Opinion Piece HERE

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Marine Life & Conservation

Nurse Shark with rare skin pigmentation recorded in Honduras

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One of the defining features of nurse sharks is a brown coloration that is present over their entire body. However, earlier this year, recreational divers in Utila, Honduras stumbled upon a unique individual with a rare condition that completely alters the typical pigmentation pattern in the skin.

The finding was recently published in a new study, “Observations of hypomelanosis in the nurse shark Ginglymostoma cirratum,” in the Journal of Fish Biology, led by researchers at Beneath The Waves (BTW). Working with members of the Caribbean Shark Coalition, the team at BTW saw this reported finding as an opportunity to emphasize the value of citizen science for shark and ray conservation. The diverse, non-traditional author list of this publication demonstrates that science can and should be made accessible to those beyond the scientific community in order to add to the scientific database of sharks, marine life, and marine habitats.

This sighting became the first documented account of a nurse shark with piebaldism, a rare skin condition that results in a partial loss of body pigmentation, with eyes remaining as their regular coloration. The unique coloring made this nurse shark easily identifiable, and the divers saw it on two different dives in two different locations.

Piebaldism is part of a larger suite of pigmentation deficiencies called hypomelanosis. This includes albinism, which results in a complete loss of pigmentation in the skin and iris, and leucism which causes total or partial loss of body pigment and a blue coloration to the iris and body.

Hypomelanosis is incredibly rare in the animal kingdom, particularly in sharks, skates, and rays. Only about 5% of these species have been documented with these conditions, one being a tawny nurse shark with albinism, and another being a nurse shark with leucism.

In nature, if an animal relies on camouflage to hunt or avoid predation, unusual skin conditions could affect its ability to do this successfully, ultimately impacting its chance of survival. With the rarity of these conditions in sharks, little is known about their effects.

This particular individual was about an average size for the species, at approximately 6 feet in length. Because of this size, we can assume that it has been able to hunt and avoid predators successfully to reach maturity. Since nurse sharks have a generalist lifestyle where they eat a wide range of foods and can survive in a variety of conditions, this was somewhat expected. Even so, this rare observation calls for more research on the potential consequences of hypomelanosis on the survivability of sharks, skates, and rays. This is only the second time this species has been scientifically documented to have a skin condition that can affect their pigmentation.

Photos: Ellie Hopgood.

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