Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need to protect sharks?

As large predators, sharks are important contributors to the health of the oceans by regulating the abundance of species below them in the food chain. The presence of diverse and abundant shark populations indicates a balanced and healthy marine ecosystem. And moreover, the presence of large charismatic species such as sharks and rays are very attractive to divers. It was even calculated that the value of one reef shark equals about 5 million dollars in tourism revenue.

Why are sharks vulnerable?

Even though sharks are fish, their biology is more similar to that of large marine mammals (whales and dolphins) than that of other fish. Generally, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce relatively few young. And many species give birth to live young instead of laying eggs like most fish do. Shark populations typically increase at extremely low rates, making them exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation and slow to recover from depletion.

What is the global status of shark populations?

A staggering 100 million sharks are killed each year in fisheries worldwide. The animals are not only used for their meat, but there is a large demand for shark fins, which are primarily used in the Asian cuisine for shark fin soup. This has led to the practice of “shark finning,” the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the dismembered animal back at sea. Of the 591 shark species assessed by scientists within the World Conservation Union (IUCN), 21% are threatened with extinction and another 18% have a near threatened status, globally. Moreover, for another 35% of species, the adequate information is lacking to make accurate population assessments.

In the Caribbean Sea, a third of the shark species is categorized by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction, another third is near threatened. And four species, being the great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, thresher shark, and sawfish, are already (critically) endangered with extinction.

How can you help?

By signing the petition you can actually make a difference. All signatures will be handed to your minister and other elected representatives, asking them to take action on protecting sharks in our waters.

What do we petition for?

In the petition we ask for your support for three important pillars of shark conservation:

  1. A ban on shark finning and strict regulation on the sale of shark products throughout the kingdom of the Netherlands
  2. Protective management of sharks in our waters
  3. Cross-border management of sharks and rays in the Caribbean

Isn’t there a ban on shark finning already?

Shark finning is the practice of removing the fins of a shark at sea and discarding the rest of body. This is not only a cruel practice but is also an unsustainable fishing method. Currently, there is no ban on shark finning on Aruba, Curacao, Saba, and St. Eustatius, and very few restrictions on the sale of shark products. On Bonaire, all shark fishing is prohibited, but there is little to no enforcement or control on landings. St. Maarten has a strict prohibition on shark fishing, which is enforced, but the sale of shark fins is still legal on the island.

Is there no local management in place?

By declaring the Yarari sanctuary the Dutch government has committed itself to shark conservation and management Saba and Bonaire. The next step is to develop management measures, together with the local and regional stakeholders. Over the next few years, the level of protection can be increased as the measures are implemented. Public support of this process is vital for its’ success.

We hope that Statia will join the two other BES-islands on the forefront of shark protection in the Caribbean.

St. Maarten has protected all its sharks for a period of ten years, and through public pressure we hope to expand the protection and make the prohibition on shark fishing permanent.

On Curacao, there is no protective management for sharks, and through the petition we can show policymakers that there is public support for shark conservation on the island and request them to develop shark management measures.

Cross-border management (SPAW listing)

Sharks swim across borders as many species migrate over great distances. Effective protection of vulnerable and endangered species will, therefore, have to be developed for the wider Caribbean region. This can be accomplished through the international SPAW protocol (Special Protection for Areas and Wildlife).

Logical candidates for SPAW-listing would be the species that are already listed in appendix 1 or 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), as there is already international commitment to protect them. These are the whale shark, sawfish, all hammerhead shark species and manta rays. In addition, the thresher shark, silky shark, devil rays and the Caribbean reef shark should also be considered as these species are in danger of becoming depleted in the Caribbean.

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The term “shark” is a reference to both sharks and rays, unless specified otherwise.

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