‘No laws’ against shark capture, sale in Cayman
A hammerhead shark that is listed as endangered was caught and butchered at a local fish market recently.
circulating in the Cayman Islands of a scalloped hammerhead shark that was
captured and sold at the George
Town fish market have prompted a response from the local
Department of Environment.
“Despite the fact that globally shark populations are severely
threatened with overfishing there are currently no laws prohibiting the capture
or sale of any sharks in the Cayman Islands,” according to a statement released
by the government on Tuesday afternoon.
“Although several species of sharks are occasionally caught in Cayman
they are not considered to be a target species, and fishermen do often take
great care to avoid hooking these animals,” read the Department of Environment
statement. “Sharks that are accidentally caught are often sold for meat so as
not to waste the animal; it is rare that a shark is killed just for the sake of
The 250 pound endangered marine predator was captured during a fishing tournament ‘the Swordfish Challenge’ on Saturday.
The captain of the craft that caught him, Colin Wilson, said the shark was “deep hooked” and that crews aboard the vessel believed there was no way it would have lived if they simply cut the fishing line.
“I’ve fished with these guys before…and if a fish is hooked and we don’t want it, we put it back,” Mr. Wilson said. “But if we cut [this shark] loose, he was going to die in the water. What’s the conservation in that?
“By no means was [the shark] targeted….we were going for swordfish,” he added.
department advises that eating shark meat carries a potential health risk. DoE
officials said shark meat can contain high levels of trace metals such as
mercury which, if ingested frequently, can become toxic to humans. Sharks also
build up a concentration of ammonia in their flesh.
Certain local laws prohibit the baiting or chumming of water with the
intent of attracting sharks. Sharks are also protected within local marine parks
and the environmental zones, but most shark species range over much larger areas
than the boundaries of the marine parks.
According to the department, all shark populations have declined
dramatically, including the scalloped hammerhead – which the International Union
for Conservation of Nature lists as endangered. This means this type of shark is
considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. Locally,
these sharks were sighted with more regularity no more than a decade ago.
However, in recent years, sightings have diminished and the current status of
local populations of scalloped hammerheads remains largely undetermined.
Caribbean, the scalloped hammerhead is known to
have declined drastically (by around 98%, according to the International Union
for Conservation of Nature) and DoE officials said this is largely due to
increased commercial fishing pressure targeting tunas and billfish. Other shark
species facing similar declines nclude the great hammerhead and oceanic
whitetip, which have seen 99 per cent declines since the 1950’s in the
Gulf of Mexico.
Department of Environment is involved in a two-year collaborative study with
Marine Conservation International, the Guy Harvey Research Institute at
Southeastern University and the Save Our Seas group to
better understand the current status of sharks in our local waters.
project is funded by the UK’s Overseas Territory Environment
Programme (OTEP) and the Save Our Seas Foundation and will result in
comprehensive management recommendations to ensure sharks receive the protection
Please see the full story in Thursday’s Caymanian Compass….