And Collaboration with Shark Fishers for Management
Sharks are in trouble in many parts of the Caribbean, but new regulations approved by the Government of Belize this week aim to improve shark management in Belize. Shark fishing is now prohibited within a two nautical mile radius around Lighthouse Reef, Glover's Reef, and Turneffe atolls, establishing a safe haven for sharks across an area of around 1,500 square miles. These measures stem from recommendations to the Government of Belize made by the National Shark Working Group, a team composed of government, shark fisherfolk, NGOs and researchers.
"The group looked at the scientific data available and concluded that these regulations were a good investment to better protect some of Belize's threatened shark species" said Beverly Wade from the Ministry of Blue Economy. The new regulations are expected to be signed into law within the next month.
Sharks are threatened in many nations around the world. Global FinPrint, the world's largest survey of sharks on coral reefs found that sharks were absent on reefs in several of the 58 nations they surveyed. The results of the survey, recently published in the journal Nature, found hope even though shark depletion was widespread. Nations with strong shark fisheries management informed by science and large marine protected areas had more sharks than nations without these investments. "Thirty years ago, the Government Belize looked at data provided by the late Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and others and decided to protect the Cockscomb basin to preserve jaguars and other land animals and plants" said Ms. Wade, Ministry of the Blue Economy and Civil Aviation. " The new shark regulations now protect the "Cockscomb of Sea", a place where sharks can thrive for generations to come".
Another exciting outcome from the National Shark Working Group is a collaboration between shark fishers, the Fisheries Department and Mote Marine Laboratory's Sharks and Rays Conservation Program. This initiative combines the fisher's knowledge of how and where to catch sharks in Belize with Motes experience using a variety of electronic tracking devices in order to answer questions about shark movements. This information will be used by the Fisheries Department to make sound management decisions. Support for this program comes from Greg Manocherian, a close friend of Dr. Rabinotwitz, who has a long history of supporting shark conservation efforts, from the Georgia Aquarium supplying tags, and from The Ellen Fund, Ellen DeGeneres' conservation foundation as part of their new Endangered Campaign. The team has already fitted 5 sharks in Belize with satellite tracking devices, two tiger sharks and three silky sharks. Additional funding comes from the Mays Family Foundation, Earthwatch International and Betsy and Peter Snow.
"These sharks have already made some interesting movements that can inform management here in Belize" said Dr. Demian Chapman from Mote. "One of the silky sharks, for example, crossed into Mexican waters after being tagged at Lighthouse Reef, which highlights how some sharks require cooperative management between Belize and other nations". This cooperative shark tagging program is a win for everybody, because sharks are tagged instead of being landed, the fishers are hired for research, and the scientists and managers obtain useful information. "We really enjoy tagging sharks with Dr. Chapman and the science crew" said Hector Martinez Jr, a shark fisher, " We all learn a lot from one another and have come to respect each other's viewpoints on shark management in the country". Martinez recently tagged a large tiger shark for the program that has spent most of its time in deep water between the main reef and Glover's Reef atoll. " I am really excited that we have been able to develop a working group where all sectors are pulling together to improve shark management in Belize" Ms. Wade.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium Georgia Aquarium The Ellen Fund
Shark Conservation and Management in Belize Our Communications and Media Consultant Daedra Isaacs-Haylock hosting a Public Information Session on Shark Conservation and Management for the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation and Fisheries Department - Government of Belize
Enforcement officers of the Belize Fisheries
Department were participated in a 2-day training to build their capacity
to detect and prosecute persons who are illegally fishing for sharks.
That initiative is part of a bigger strategy by the Ministry of the
Blue Economy to step up conservation efforts for the protection of the
shark population that can still be found in Belize's territorial sea
spaces. This evening, the Ministry held a special ceremony to mark the
approval of a Statutory Instrument from the Cabinet that establishes a
protected area of around 1,500 square miles for sharks. As a result,
shark fishing is now prohibited within a two-nautical-mile radius
around the Lighthouse Reef, Glover's Reef, and Turneffe atolls.
7News attended today's ceremony, and here's what the Minister had to
say about what is being referred to as the establishment of the
Cockscomb Protected Area of the sea:
As part of the conservation effort, the Ministry of the Blue Economy is
working with Dr. Demian Chapman, a representative of Florida's Mote
Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, and local fishermen for a shark tagging
initiative. These devices will enable local shark experts to track the
migration patterns of the shark species that can be found in Belize's
A team of professionals has already fitted 5 sharks in Belize with
these satellite tracking devices. They are now monitoring the sharks'
movements to find out if they enter the territorial waters of
neighbouring countries. The plan is to work with those governments to
protect the population of sharks within Central America.
Here's what Dr. Chapman had to say about the sharks that have already