Caribbean shark RESEARCH
Sharks have always played an important role in my life and throughout my studies. As a child I was a frequent visitor of the shark exhibit in the local zoo in my neighbourhood, Burgers’ Zoo. During my MSc thesis on Saba I got a chance to actually dive with sharks for the first time and since then I got hooked on the beauty of these magnificent animals in their natural environment. After graduation I was offered the opportunity to be involved at the Save our Sharks project in the Dutch Caribbean as project assistent. I moved to St Maarten for 3 months and ended up working at the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) on Bonaire. A short summary of all the shark related research I was involved in can be found below.
For his study I used Stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video survey (BRUVs), which is a noninvasive method to study species richness, relative abundance and accurate length frequency of fish species such as sharks. Over 170 BRUV drops were executed during his thesis. After graduation in 2015, I started working for Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) as shark community analyst in the Dutch Caribbean (Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Bonaire). I also provide MSc students and Marine Park staff with shark survey/analysis training and advise.
From May 2016 until July 2017 I was involved in the Save our Sharks project in the Dutch Caribbean as project assistant at DCNA. Communication, dedication, persistence and patience are the key words of this work. His strengths lie in conducting fundamental research and his ability to communicate with scientists and volunteers from various research fields, in providing constructive solutions by balancing between interests of different stakeholders and in looking for ways to gain consensus and get people to work together efficiently and effectively as a team.
Below you can read about the shark research I was involved in during my shark conservation work in the Dutch Caribbean.
Underwater Video Surveys
Working together with fisheries biologists at Wageningen Marine Research, I conducted innovative sBRUV (stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video) monitoring of sharks in the Dutch Caribbean. This non-invasive, non-harmful technique involves setting out baited video cameras to capture images of sharks. This information is used to give estimates of shark population numbers. Together with information collected from fishermen, photographs and similar we will be able to get the first clear picture of the historic status of shark populations around our islands.
Acoustic monitoring research
Working with WMR shark experts we tried to discover, not only which sharks make their home in our waters, but something about their movements and behaviour. For this, WMR will use acoustic monitoring techniques, which provide insight in the underlying movement patterns of sharks. We will look at attaching acoustic tracking devices to Caribbean reefs sharks (C. perezii) and nurse sharks (G. cirratum), initially around Saba, St Maarten and St Eustatius to get a first indication of the scale of movement patterns of these sharks and to build local awareness about them.
Satellite tracking of tiger sharks
We also used cutting edge satellite tracking techniques to find out more about tiger shark (G. cuvier) movements and migration patterns in the Caribbean. A small device (satellite tag) is placed on the shark, which beams a signal allowing satellites to track the shark’s movements. Not only is this information essential if we are to protect sharks throughout their range, it is also hugely popular with the public who will be encouraged to follow along with competitions allowing them to and guess where the sharks will go, how far and how fast they will travel. For the first results on one of our tagged tiger sharks (Quinty), please refer to the video collection below.