Monday, April 18, 2011

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary: the call is out to protect a leading shark locale

Having just recently returned from a video expedition to the northwest banks off of the Bahamas, I was again reminded as to why this region is considered one of the shark capitols of the world. The underwater topography, from white sandy plains to lush reefs to expansive beds of sea grass, lend themselves as hospitable environments for a variety of shark species. Caribbean reef sharks and the occasional tiger shark cruise the reefs. Lemon sharks in large numbers, tiger sharks, and nurse sharks patrol the sandy bottoms. And in deeper water you can find hammerhead and oceanic white tip sharks.

With scuba diving and shark diving being major tourist attractions that support the Bahamas' fragile economy, it is surprising to find that there are no established management policies or regulated safe zones for the protection of the sharks in the Bahamas. These animals are exposed. But that could soon change.

The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), with cooperation from the Pew Charitable Trusts, is beginning a campaign to have a shark sanctuary established in the Bahamas. This would be the first of its kind in the Atlantic Ocean, and that could start the ball rolling much like what is occurring in the Pacific with the Palau Shark Sanctuary and the shark fishing regulations or prohibitions that have sprung up in several Pacific island nations.

But first, you must get the people on your side. With a committed, or least understanding and willing, constituency, you then can generate support and action within the halls of government. The Dorsal Fin blog noted the following two videos produced by the BNT and Pew Trusts. Each delivers basically the same message but with a slightly different angle. The first video is designed to appeal to the human element and to show that even Bahamian children understand the importance of protecting such a vital national natural resource and that what could happen to sharks will impact future generations. The second video shows the sharks themselves, particularly Caribbean reef sharks, and is a bit more informative - although it lacks a clever motif or hook that could perhaps better grab the viewer's attention.

But together they make for a great statement of common sense and concern. The Bahamas is more than a source or sun, sand, and a cool tropical drink (although that ain't bad by itself). No, the Bahamas is also a priceless oceanic treasure that needs an overarching policy of protection for its sharks. Without them, an oceanic gem would suffer in more ways than one.

I'll have some of my recent Bahama footage up soon in future posts, but in the meantime, check out the Bahamas National Trust and Pew Charitable Trusts to learn more about what you can do. It's about time.

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