Sharks are not popular in the Cayman Islands. Mauvis is conducting the first shark surveys in the area and fostering public support for the animals, leading to protective measures and even a ‘shark beer’ on which islanders could read conservation messages.
This project will investigate movements of reef shark species around the Cayman Islands, the effects of attracting reef sharks for shark tourism, and the feasibility of tracking larger, potentially dangerous sharks to provide a real-time alert system at sensitive tourist areas. The occurrence of certain cetacean species in offshore areas will also be investigated.
This project study will greatly assist the Cayman Islands in protecting the key components of their marine biodiversity and in supporting sustainable, economically beneficial use of these iconic species.
More than 90% of the world’s shark populations have been lost over the past 20 years, largely due to illegal fishing. In the Cayman Islands, as the marine environment has been better managed than in most areas, there is the opportunity to ensure that endangered species are not lost. However, there is very little reliable information about local shark species, their populations and the pressures they face.
For this project, our research team will assist the Cayman’s Department of Environment with surveys around all three Cayman islands and will build on the department’s efforts to establish a public sightings scheme for recording observations of sharks, whales and dolphins. To do this, we will use sonic and satellite tagging, baited remote underwater video (BRUV) systems and offshore aerial surveys. Additionally, we hope to expand on local efforts to better understand what species of whales and dolphins use Caymans’ waters as part of their home ranges or seasonal migratory routes.
The project will emphasise collaboration with local fishermen, dive operators and boat owners who will be invited to share their knowledge and report sightings of sharks, whales and dolphins to the Department of the Environment. The project is jointly funded by the UK Overseas Territory Environment Programme, the Save Our Seas Foundation and the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment.
The aims and objectives of this project are to: