To better understand Cayman’s shark populations and to raise awareness of the importance of sharks to healthy reefs and the marine environment.
Continued long term surveying of shark populations to monitor populations present in Cayman’s marine environment. Shark populations are relatively fragile and numbers are small, making assessment vital.
Changing public perception to a positive attitude towards sharks through understanding the role sharks play in maintaining a healthy marine environment and the need for a healthy respect for sharks.
Improving the effectiveness of enforcement of shark / elasmobranch conservation legislation, including so far as feasible in offshore waters. Since all sharks are protected within the Cayman Islands, focus is given to providing information on areas and seasons in which sharks may be particularly vulnerable and/or occurring more frequently, to inform Marine Protected Area (MPA) planning and fishery policies.
Raise funds to take our work on Cayman’s sharks forward
GPS tags allow us to track a shark travelling over a wide geographic area and long period of time.
Daily Diary tags that provide much detailed information on the movement and behaviour of sharks in a short period of time.
An ultrasound machine allows us to investigate the health and reproductive state of sharks – for instance if a female is pregnant.
“We have fewer sharks in Cayman than we need for a healthy reef”
Dr Mauvis Gore | Co – Founder
With the help of acoustic tags, baited remote underwater video (BRUV) surveys, diving surveys and satellite tags, the Department of Environment together with Marine Conservation International, supported by the Cayman Islands Brewery’s White Tip Shark Conservation Fund, have been studying, monitoring and working to protect local shark populations in the Cayman Islands since 2009. In 2016, the Sharklogger Programme, a network of local divers and diving centres, expanded this work and now help the research team to monitor shark populations on all three islands in Cayman.
BRUVS = Baited remote underwater video survey
This is a cost effective and non-invasive way to study the behaviour and relative abundance of Cayman’s shark populations. The biannual survey covers 21 sites around Grand Cayman and Little Cayman.
The Cayman Islands has an extensive network of acoustic receivers with an array on each of the three islands. These receivers are listening stations for acoustic tags. If a tagged shark swims passed a receiver, information from the tag is logged by the receiver. These data allows the researchers to track the movements of our sharks around the Cayman coast as well as providing information on behaviour, seasonality and home ranging.
Since 2019, local schools participate in our Adopt a Shark campaign, which educates students about the local shark populations and raises funds. These funds will help us to improve and expand our coastal shark research to include deploying archival pop-up satellite tags on Caribbean reef sharks.
In the past, satellite tags have been deployed on oceanic white tip sharks and tiger sharks in collaboration with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. The data allows us to track the extensive migratory routes of these individuals as they travel to other parts in the Caribbean as well as the periodic return of some to Cayman.
Dorsal fin tags
When acoustically tagging individual sharks, a numbered fin tag is attached to the dorsal fin. This makes tagged sharks visible to divers, beach-goers and fishermen. Each tag number refers to one specific shark. Reports of tagged sharks gives more detailed insight into individual movements around the islands. This helps to identify the sharks, track their movements and to estimate shark population numbers.
See photo below of a Caribbean reef shark with a dorsal fin tag.
Working with local residents and visitors has provided a greater understanding of earlier population occurrences as well as any increase or decrease in numbers of observations over time. The Sharklogger Network unites Cayman's diving community, who contribute towards the monitoring of the local shark population.
Public shark sighting reports
Collaborating with local fishers, accidental shark catch or by-catch is monitored and recorded. Visitors and locals also report shark sightings to the shark research team. The volunteer observer network is hugely supportive and helpful in reporting sightings of sharks. Divers and snorkelers also report their shark sightings to the Dept. of Environment via phone (949-8469), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or social media (Shark Conservation Cayman).
Shark Conservation Cayman is a collaboration between the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and Marine Conservation International. Our main supporter is the White Tip Fund from the Cayman Islands Brewery.
Cayman Islands Department of Environment: www.doe.ky
Marine Conservation International: www.marineconservationinternational.org
White Tip Fund from the Cayman Islands Brewery: www.cib.ky