When the Bahamian government outlawed shark fishing in its national waters in 2011, it created the largest shark sanctuary in the Atlantic Ocean and became a worldwide leader in shark protection. This historic shark conservation effort could serve as a model for other nations to enact similar laws. However, its success relies largely on whether sharks remain in the sanctuary long enough to reproduce, and if there is effective enforcement and public buy-in, especially from local fishermen.
The Moore Charitable Foundation funded a scientific research expedition to the Bahamas in 2013, led by Dr. Demian Chapman and of Stony Brook University, to progress the science, education and stewardship of shark conservation. The research is part of a larger collaborative project that has been underway in the Bahamas for over 5 years. The collaboration includes the Moore Charitable Foundation, Microwave Telemetry Inc. (who make the satellite tags), Abercrombie & Fish, Save our Seas Foundation, Cape Eleuthera Institute, NOAA, University of North Florida, and Stony Brook University. The researchers include marine scientists Demian Chapman, Debbie Abercrombie, Mark Bond, Lucy Howey, Lance Jordan, Brenda Anderson, John Carlson, Edd and Annabelle Brooks, and Sean Williams. Photos are courtesy of Christine O’Connell, Mark Bond, Sean Williams and Andy Mann.
In order to effectively protect them, we need to better understand these enigmatic species, including where they go to breed, eat, and give birth. The team’s research in the Bahamian Shark Sanctuary aims to help answer some of these important questions. Additionally, the team is conducting ongoing education and stewardship efforts in the Bahamas to help curb illegal fishing, and promote support for shark conservation among the local fishermen and communities.