There is strong international interest among the NGO, policy, and philanthropic communities to create protected areas in our oceans, underscored by initiatives to protect the waters of remote island nations, the high seas, and establishing targets to protect 30% of our oceans by 2030.
Large-scale marine protected areas over 100,000 km2 connect large pelagic ecosystems, enhance ecological processes, and promote sustainable fisheries. One of the greatest benefits of this tool is the potential to conserve highly migratory species like sharks, which travel long-distances spanning multiple countries.
The Greater Caribbean contains the highest number of marine species in the Atlantic Ocean, but has been grossly overlooked in the marine protected area discussion. As a result, sharks are highly threatened in the region, yet certain areas where they are protected from fishing still hold strong populations and represent a window to previous abundance. These species have also been shown to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies each year when used as a non-consumptive resource. As a result, many island nations have begun or are interested in creating species-species marine protected areas, such as shark sanctuaries. These marine parks typically prohibit the commercial fishing of all sharks, the retention of sharks caught as bycatch, and the possession, trade, and sale of sharks and shark products within a country’s full exclusive economic zone.
Of the current 33 large-scale marine protected areas around the world, there are none in the Caribbean Sea. Creating marine protected areas in the region are both an opportunity and a necessity for preserving biodiversity and promoting healthy oceans for human benefit.
Beneath the Waves is working with local governments and NGOs in the Caribbean, to accelerate the creation of marine protected areas in the region. This work involves a combination of independent, long-term monitoring and rapid assessment led by our core team, as well as expert consultation with local decision-makers and coalitions, and collaboration with regional partners on the ground. This work is focused in The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman, St Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.
To determine the scale of residency and habitat use for mobile species such as sharks, which are a common driver for interest in marine protected areas globally, Beneath the Waves uses acoustic telemetry and passive monitoring throughout islands in the Caribbean. These efforts have focused primarily on Caribbean reef sharks due to their high socioeconomic values to the tourism industry and relevance to other parts of the world. Other tools may be used, including the use of remote camera systems to estimate shark, ray, grouper, and other highly migratory species occurrence on coral reefs, seagrass, open ocean, and deep-sea habitats.
This project will drive impact in the following ways: