Caribbean coral reefs for sharks

During her visit to Saba and Bonaire, Sharon Dijksma, Dutch Minister for Agriculture, opened a shark sanctuary. Shark populations throughout the world are in steep decline, so these animals need extra protection against illegal fishing. Steps also need to be taken to reduce shark by-catch by the regular fishing industry. Local nature conservation and fisheries organisations are involved in these protection measures. In creating this shark sanctuary, the eleventh of its kind in the world, the Netherlands aims to actively protect sharks in the Caribbean Sea.

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Minister for Agriculture Dijksma commented that ‘This exceptional sanctuary will ensure the conservation of these animals in the waters around Saba and Bonaire. Sharks are important not only for tourism but also for the fishing industry. Contrary to what you might expect, where there are more sharks, there are also more fish.’

Deputy Chris Johnson of Saba said ‘I am very pleased that the two administrations of Saba and Bonaire, along with the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, recognise the importance of this issue, and the beneficial impact this will have on the islands, and on the region as a whole.’

Research carried out by Imares has shown that, as predators, a decline in shark numbers will increasingly upset the natural balance in the sea. This could affect fish stocks throughout the region.

Healthy fish stocks are important for fishermen on the islands, who are dependant on their catches. Tourism also benefits from coral reefs that have sharks.