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Marine Life & Conservation

Vital Caribbean shark population to be better protected

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The Marine Conservation Society are delighted to announce that they will be part of a new project funded by the UK Government which will be protecting shark populations in the Caribbean.

They will be working directly with organisations in both the Caribbean and the UK to ensure that local shark populations are protected in the waters around Anguilla, one of the UK’s overseas territories. Thanks to a grant awarded by the UK Government’s Darwin Plus initiative, which provides vital funding in overseas territories, work will be carried out to better understand shark populations around these East Caribbean islands. As apex predators, the sharks sit at the top of the food chain, and play a critical role in marine ecosystem recovery and resilience.

Amdeep Sanghera, UK Overseas Territories Conservation Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have received vital Darwin Plus funding for this exciting project. By undertaking the first ever assessments of sharks in Anguilla, we’ll better understand the status of these keystone predators.”

Amdeep goes on to explain why the work is so critical: “Atlantic shark populations have declined by as much as 90% in recent decades, including in the Caribbean region which is home to at least 40 shark species. By undertaking the first ever assessments of sharks in Anguilla, we’ll better understand the status of these keystone predators.”

This project will develop priority conservation actions to support conservation of Anguilla’s shark populations, with local communities fully engaged in creating these solutions.”

Working alongside the Anguilla National Trust and the Government of Anguilla’s Fisheries and Marine Resources Unit, scientific aspects of the project will be guided by University of Exeter’s Dr Matt Witt who is an Associate Professor in Natural Environment.

The programme will include deploying baited remote underwater cameras (BRUVs) in shallow and deep-water habitats to support the first ever ecological shark assessment in Anguilla.

We will offer our expertise in underwater camera systems to improve knowledge for these incredibly important, but often much maligned, species,” Dr Matt Witt, University of Exeter explained.

Fishing boats in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of the Anguillan islands
Credit: Steve Adams via Unsplash

An international collaboration

The Marine Conservation Society will use their successful Community Voice Method of engagement and, working in partnership with the Fisheries and Marine Resources Unit in Anguilla will work directly with the local community to understand how they live alongside the sharks, and to ensure that those who live and work around the islands have their opinions included in the project.

The collaboration between local residents and government departments, and UK scientists and the Marine Conservation Society will be central to the drafting of a national shark Species Action Plan to safeguard these invaluable creatures for generations to come.

This is the first time that we’ll be partnering with MCS and the University of Exeter,” said Farah Mukhida, Executive Director, Anguilla National Trust .

With their extensive experience, expertise, and commitment to evidence-based marine conservation, we’re looking forward to developing local capacity as we work together with the Government of Anguilla to conserve some of the world’s most misunderstood and feared species. An assessment of Anguilla’s shark species populations, and Anguillians’ attitudes towards sharks has been missing and it’s a much needed area of research.”

With fear of sharks still widespread today, a need exists to sensitise the Anguillan public on this matter. Fisheries Unit is happy to be a part of this project, and looks forward to engaging all stakeholders to assist with changing people’s attitudes towards shark conservation” Kafi Gumbs, Director, Fisheries and Marine Resources Unit, said.

To find out more about the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.

Header image: Caribbean Reef Shark by Frogfish Photography

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

Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Trust’s Ali Hood wins IFAW Marine Conservation Award

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Director of Conservation at the Shark Trust, Ali Hood, has been awarded the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)’s Marine Conservation Award for her outstanding dedication to protecting sharks.

The ceremony, held at the House of Lords, saw IFAW present the 2021 Animal Action Awards to an inspiring group of true animal heroes. The awards recognise their steadfast commitment and dedication to animals during difficult times. Their ‘never giving up’ attitude and passion for animals is why IFAW are so proud to honour them this year. IFAW’s 2021 Animal Action Awards honours those who have made incredible achievements in the animal welfare and conservation community.

©IFAW: Left to right: Baroness Gale, James Sawyer (IFAW UK Director); Ali Hood (Shark Trust Director of Conservation), Mark Beaudouin (Chair of the IFAW board of Trustees)

Ali has headed the conservation team at the Shark Trust for nearly 20 years and tirelessly works to secure management and protection for vulnerable shark and ray species, and to hold governments and industry to account for their commitments.

Ali comments, “As a conservation advocate, I’m fortunate to work with a highly dedicated team of people, both within the Shark Trust, and our trusted partners worldwide. Overfishing is the greatest threat to sharks, and securing essential shark conservation objectives is not a straightforward task, given the commercial interest in many species. But we’ve found persistence pays, and we’re committed to seeing science-based management adopted.” 

“It was amazing to receive such an award, and I’m grateful to IFAW for their recognition of shark conservation concerns.”

James Sawyer, IFAW UK Regional Director said “Our winners this year can teach us many valuable lessons. They teach us that we need to reflect a diverse community of animal protectors to be successful. They teach us that being there for animals remains important but that animals can be there for us too. Critically this reminds us how interdependent we are with the animals of the world and how together we need to continue to work to improve things for all of us.”

IFAW have produced a short video about the Animal Action Award winners which you can watch here:

For more information about IFAW visit their website by clicking here.

For more information about the Shark Trust visit their website by clicking here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Top 5 Party Guests: The Magic of Night Diving in Cozumel

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A blog by Pro Dive International

*Header image: On the day of our planned night dive at the Allegro Cozumel, we had to reschedule, as any water activity during thunderstorms and lightning is considered dangerous. We still thought it was worth sharing this breathtaking spectacle with you.*


Have you ever gazed out at the open ocean at night wondering what happens down there as the sun disappears over the horizon and darkness sets in? If all marine life will be sleeping, or if there’s anything creeping along the reefs?

Here’s what really happens, including a list of our Top 5 Party Guests that make you want to add night diving in Cozumel to your bucket list.

Brief Overview

While the Caribbean Sea is not calming down at night due to the effectively constant trade-winds in the tropics that drive ocean wave trains and cause waves to break throughout day and night, a vibrant party under the sea is just about to begin, as huge basket stars unfurl their arms into the night, parrotfish create their mucus bubble beds, giant lobsters, king crabs and octopus prepare for hunt, and bioluminescence sparkles up the scene.

TOP 5 Party Guests

1. Basket Stars

These sea stars can only be observed in their true glory at night when they unfurl their many branched arms into the darkness to filter food from the water. Some reach nearly a meter in size! Shine your torch on them and watch them curl their huge arms back towards their mouths as they eat the small creatures attracted by your light. 

The perfect party costume, do you agree?

Basket Star by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

2. Cephalopods – Octopus & Squid

These fascinating creatures are rarely spotted during day dives, but at night you can see them out and about hunting the reef for their next meal. Watch as they move about changing colors and patterns in the blink of an eye! Below is a picture of an octopus spreading its body wide over the reef like a net to encircle its prey.

Did you know that octopuses were that colorful?

Octopus by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

3. Crustaceans

Safely tucked away in the back of a crevice during the day, these creatures venture out under the cover of darkness to hunt. A fantastic opportunity to finally get a close-up look at all those king crabs and plenty of lobsters you have only seen as small eyes peering out from the back of a cave.

Up for a dance?

Crab by Elizabeth Maleham @Pro Dive International

4. Parrotfish

Many fish only half sleep, needing to be alert to the dangers 24/7, but parrot fish have evolved an ingenious warning system so they can get their eyes shut. As night draws in, they find a nook to rest in and start to create a mucus like a bubble encircling their whole bodies. They can rest safely in this for the entire night, but if anything disturbs this veil, they are off like a shot into the dark!

How did this sleepy guy make it into our Top 5?

Parrotfish in Cozumel by Guillermo Reta @Pro Dive International

5. Bioluminescence

For those not familiar with this natural phenomenon, bioluminescence is a chemical process which allows living creatures like plankton, tiny crustaceans, some fish, squid and algae to produce light in their body to either attract prey, confuse predators, or lure potential mates.

As the bioluminescent sea will glow when it’s disturbed by a breaking wave or a splash in the water at night, for most of our divers the best part is covering up the torches and waving our arms about disturbing the bioluminescence into sparkling blue points of light. 

This makes the perfect party glitter!

Bioluminescence @Dreamstime


Already in a party mood? Pack your dive gear!

How to join the underwater party in Cozumel?

  1. Join Pro Dive International’s Cozumel Night Dives as a certified diver.
  2. Boost your skills and make your night dive one of the 5 Adventure Dives of the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course.
  3. Contact us for guidance.


Contact:

reservations@prodiveinternational.com 

www.prodiveinternational.com/contact-us

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Our special, extended, 14 night charter of MV Carpe Diem in the Maldives will visit some of our favourite sites in the central and near-south atolls. We will be spending 14 nights on-board, specifically because we want to travel and have time to enjoy the sites without rushing too much.

The boat will depart from Male on Saturday 23rd October and guests will disembark on Saturday 06th November. The route will incorporate our favourite manta points, shark diving points and spectacular coral reefs.

 

Please contact us for last minute prices on 01473921888 or email us at info@greatescapesdivingholidays.com

 

 

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