Mustique, July 29, 2014 – A large tiger shark was found floating dead on Tuesday morning amongst large quantities of seaweed (Sargassum seaweed) in Rutland Bay, part of the Mustique Marine Conservation Area.
An unusual occurrence in the Grenadines and in the Caribbean region, and indeed globally, the shark was found by sea turtle researchers during an early morning patrol and was determined to be an 11 foot long female tiger shark, with no visible injuries.
Tiger sharks are highly susceptible to fishing pressure and are officially considered by scientists as ‘near threatened’. This means that their population faces extinction in the near future. They have extremely low rates of reproduction and this female was not carrying any young.
SusGren and Mustique are currently checking with shark experts about the possible causes of death, especially to determine whether the death might be linked to the influx of seaweed that is currently affecting the Eastern Caribbean.
This is a repeat of the influx of pelagic sargassum seen in 2011, which researchers linked to a bloom in seaweed in the North Equatorial Region carried by currents across the Tropical Atlantic. The 2011 climate was unusual and scientists speculate that the influx of seaweed might be linked to global climate change.
This is an added pressure on the survival of sharks, which are already threatened with extinction given heavy pressure from fishing. Their poor public image and the myths about their danger do not help. Sharks are in fact vitally important to the marine environment because they are an apex predator and they play an important role in keeping an ecological balance by preying upon sick and weak fish.
In recognition of their important role in the environment, there is increasing momentum for shark conservation in the Caribbean.
As recently as May of this year, the British Virgin Islands established a shark sanctuary throughout their entire marine area, protecting all shark species and prohibiting the trade and sale of shark products. They join The Bahamas and Honduras as leading countries in our region to take this important and much needed conservation action to fully protect all sharks.
As part of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ commitment to the Caribbean Challenge Initiative in support of marine conservation, the government has undertaken to participate in regional shark protection by May 2015.
Please report any incidents of sharks, whales, dolphins or sea turtles washing ashore to SusGren. And please do not kill sharks, instead please leave them to serve their important ecological role.
For more information please contact Sustainable Grenadines Inc., Clifton, Union Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Tel/Fax: # (784) 485 – 8779. e-mail: [email protected]