A critical point has been reached in our Cayman Islands Shark & Dolphin Project; indeed, perhaps with luck a rewarding endpoint of the present phase of work: our reports and recommendations have now gone out to public consultation within the islands.
After three and a half years work we have submitted two reports to the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, our host organisation. The first describes the results of the scientific research, surveys of the abundance and diversity of in particular sharks, and also whales and dolphins, and studies of their behaviour. The second report examines the economic benefits to islands coming from healthy shark and cetacean populations, mainly as a result of the large SCUBA diving industry, which benefits from divers preferring to choose destinations where there is a good chance of seeing large charismatic marine animals, such as sharks, turtles and dolphins. It also offers options for enhancing the protection of these species: either the existing MPAs should be enlarged or sharks given protection throughout Cayman Island waters.
A public consultation document was released at a Press Conference in Georgetown, where deputy director of the Environment Department, Tim Austin, and project placement research officer Lizy Gardner described the project findings to press and TV. They also explained how stakeholders could express their views on the research finding and conservation recommendations; by returning a paper copy of a feedback form, or by completing a questionnaire on line. You can find (and download) the public consultation document at http://www.doe.ky/ wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Shark_Research_Report_as_of_14_August_2012.pdf, and you can view or complete the feedback questionnaire at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZL5X5SP.
The project is jointly funded by the UK Government Overseas Territories Environment Programme, the Save Our Seas Foundation and Caybrew of the Cayman Islands.