Sunday, September 26, 2010

Shark Free Marinas - Jillian Morris

As a marine biologist, diver and videographer I have the good fortune of routinely travelling to the most wondrous locations. When I stop to think about where my favorite places are, I realize that many of them – the best places on the planet – are right here in the Bahamas.

These islands offer beauty and adventure – including a diverse range of shark encounter opportunities, such as the world famous Tiger Beach – which is a Mecca for shark enthusiasts. People travel from around the globe to catch a glimpse of the big beauties that inhabit the waters at Tiger Beach.

Film crews, television hosts and scientists alike revere this site as the ideal location to film, observe and conduct research. I have been blessed to spend quite a lot of time at this special place and I must confess that each time I visit it is completely different. Tiger Beach is really an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind natural resource. Tiger sharks and lemon sharks are the primary species, but great hammerheads, Caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks are also known to make appearances. Part of the excitement lies in never knowing what you might find when you slip beneath the surface!

As Jacques Cousteau astutely once said “people protect what they love,” and so I got involved with the Shark Free Marina Initiative because I love sharks. This campaign was designed to reduce the worldwide shark mortality rate by working with cooperating marinas. In the Shark Free Marina Initiative making the commitment means that no caught shark can be landed within the marina for any reason. There is no processing of meat, removal of the jaws of stringing up of the animals for photographs. Fishing for sharks within the participating marina is also prohibited. (This encourages fisherman to catch and release if they do insist on catching sharks at all.)

The program also works to teach proper techniques for catch and release, in order to increase the chance of survival for a caught shark. And while they have been historically, albeit incorrectly, perceived as monsters, sharks are extremely sensitive to being caught on a line. Just because they are released and not killed at the time of that release, does not guarantee they will survive at all. The Shark Free Marina Initiative also encourages fisherman to tag the animals with simple dart tags, as a means of increasing data collection.

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