The public is being reassured that recent sightings of a shark in shallow waters along Seven Mile Beach should not be cause for alarm.
Some swimmers along the prime area of beach had a chance encounter over the weekend when a female hammerhead shark, believed to be pregnant, was seen cruising up and down in the shallows.
This behaviour is perfectly natural for a pregnant female at this time of year, Assistant Director of the Department of the Environment Tim Austin assured the Caymanian Compass.
‘The female sharks come into the shallow waters during the summer months to give birth,’ he said, ‘And then go back to the deeper water’.
No significant threat is posed by sharks coming into the shallows at this time of year, the DoE pointed out.
‘Because of the very nature of these sharks and the clarity of our water, the chance of an attack is very low,’ said DoE Research Officer John Bothwell in a Government Information Services press release.
In murky water it is believed that a shark may mistake the movements of humans for those of their normal food, fish.
The Department of Environment had lots of calls over the weekend and on Monday reporting sightings of this particular hammerhead shark.
Although there has been some alarm amongst those who have seen the shark on the beach, there is absolutely no cause for concern, Mr. Austin assured.
Hammerhead sharks are not naturally aggressive, he pointed out, although sharks, by their very nature, do have the potential to attack.
A pregnant hammerhead would only be interested in finding a suitable place to give birth when she cruises the shallows, Mr. Austin said. ‘There is no reason to be concerned.’
In fact, he said, at this point, she has most probably given birth and returned to the reef out in deep water.
A Marine Enforcement officer was sent out to view the shark yesterday and he had confirmed it was a large hammerhead with a fat, pregnant looking belly.
Pregnant sharks often lose the urge to feed, Mr. Austin said, and she was probably not even interested in feeding on fish in the shallows.
Mr. Austin said pregnant hammerheads come into shallow waters to give birth in safety from predators out deep that could harm the babies.
The sharks often come into Barkers Beach or into the North Sound, and probably Seven Mile Beach, but normally there are no reports of sightings of sharks on the latter.
Mr. Austin suggests that if people do see a shark and they do not feel comfortable they should get out of the water and get back in when it has passed by.
The GIS release warns against panic reactions or taking hasty action if the shark is spotted. This includes warnings against attempting to feed them.
‘It would be especially unfortunate if anyone attempted to remove any of these sharks in the misguided notion that this would be in the interest of public safety,’ said Mr. Bothwell, adding that sharks are top predators in the marine environment and play a very important role in maintaining the balance of the ocean’s natural systems.
‘Although appropriate caution and situational awareness is always warranted, the chance of an attack by a shark or other dangerous animal should not keep people from enjoying Cayman’s wonderful marine environment.’