Setting the Record Straight for Sharks

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Posted by WorkingAbroad Projects on Monday, 2nd November 2015

View over The Quill National ParkSeptember at our Statia Conservation Volunteer Project saw the arrival of Shark Week and an opportunity for Marine Park Manager Jessica Berkel and Education and Outreach officer Claire Blair to set some common misconceptions straight. Jessica and Claire made appearances at public events, local schools and spoke on the radio to give sharks a break from their usual bad press. Over the years shark attack stories making the headlines and films such as Jaws have instilled fear among the public. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. On average roughly 5 or 6 people are killed each by sharks with shark attacks in the Caribbean being extremely rare. In reality these apex predators are actually a vital cog in the reef ecosystem keeping the food chain in balance.

Shark week was also the perfect opportunity to introduce the Save our Sharks project. Funded by the postcode lottery this collaboration throughout the six Dutch islands, coordinated by DCNA, is aiming to uncover more about the sharks in these waters and offer them protection.  As part of this project fishermen from Statia will be educated about sharks and given training in tagging as well as safe methods of hook removal when they have been accidently caught. In a buy-back scheme, they can receive money for sharks they are able to tag and release back into the ocean.

Education and outreach has also been in full force with local children enjoying the summer club at the National Parks Office. Everyone got involved with what was on offer from snorkelling to hiking and of course some work in the Botanical Garden. Activities like this are the perfect opportunity to learn about Statia’s environment and how to preserve it. September also saw the introduction of Junior Rangers with children learning about renewable energy, becoming tour guides, planting and gardening techniques to name just a few. Those children involved have really embraced the opportunity to be out in the garden and explore the environment first hand.

In Marine Park news the National Parks Foundation are beginning to map colonies of the endangered Staghorn coral to gage their overall health. Divers will use surface markers as an indication for the patrol boat that a colony has been found. GPS will then be used to record the location and allow the site to be monitored over time. Some scientists believe that there is a link between predation and disease so this will be a focus point. This is the start of an incredibly interesting project and plenty of updates will follow!

Turtle hatchling The 2015 turtle season has also kicked into second gear with regular nesting activity and night patrols on Zeelandia Beach. During August the threat of a tropical storm meant some nests were moved away from the water line. Thankfully the storm was not as severe as predicted and only one nest was lost. The 2015 season will also include participation in the Imares Project. This project investigates the ecology and conservation of green and hawksbill turtles in the Dutch Caribbean. The project is looking at migration routes, population demographics and habitat and will help to determine future conservation efforts.

During September staff and interns conducted a large beach clean on Zeelandia, the main turtle nesting beach. This was part of a worldwide initiative aimed at raising awareness about keeping coastlines and our oceans clean.

Finally there have been lots of terrestrial updates from Statia. Tim van Wagensveld from Wageningen University joined the team in September to study the lesser Antillean Iguana including its feeding ecology, territorial behaviour and nesting preferences. In addition work on a new trail leading down from the crater rim on the Quill has also been progressing and work has also commenced on a side trail. This second trail will lead from the main Quill trail and will show off some historical ruins. Historical sites like this one are scattered around the northern hills and these new trails are sure to be a hit with those interested in the Quills past!

If you want to find out more about the work carried out by volunteers on Statia and are interested in getting involved, just click here!

By Megan Smith, WorkingAbroad team

Author: WorkingAbroad Projects

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