DoE: Endangered shark caught, butchered

‘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.  

Photos
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
it.”

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. 

The
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.

In the
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.

The
Department of Environment is involved in a two-year collaborative study with
Marine Conservation International, the Guy Harvey Research Institute at
Nova
Southeastern University and the Save Our Seas group to
better understand the current status of sharks in our local waters. 

The
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
they require.

Please see the full story in Thursday’s Caymanian Compass….

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10 COMMENTS

  1. It would be interesting for the author of this article to elaborate on the status of the law as a whole. For example if you catch a turtle outside the marine park is it illegal?
    Surely the legislators should aim to protect all endangered species. Does the DoE lobby government on these issues? If not who is ultimately responsible for the protection of species.
    What would legislators view be of implementing a law carrying a fine (lets say 1,0000) for anyone to kill or possess an endangered species (lets say use the WWF list) in the Cayman Islands.
    I’m intrigued as to what the legislators/ government members stance would be.

    Editor’s note: Compass is continuing to work on this story and will have much more detail in later editions. Keep reading!

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  2. It is a sad case that this shark was killed as sharks are an important element in a healthy marine ecosystem. When will laws protecting sharks be put in place? Will this country ever give the DoE power to protect the environment? I believe the wire fishing lines need to be banned within 3 miles of the shoreline. I have recovered 400 feet of a solid wire fishing line from the reef off of 7 mile beach.

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  3. The fish was hooked during the swordfish tournament. It was gut hooked or deep hooked and the hook could not be safely removed. The come of such an incident has a very low survival rate, the shark would have died a slow death.

    If someone ones wants to eat something that is already dying, then I see no problem with that and neither should you.

    Killing it was the most humane thing to do.

    Butchered… LOL, how else do you cut up a piece of meat????

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  4. The fishermen who caught this shark could easily have set it free once they realized what they had on the line. Instead, the reeled it in and kept it, slaughtered it and sliced it up. For that, they should be heavily fined.

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  5. What utter nonsense!
    1- There is nothing endangered about a hammer head shark! a declince does not mean endangered.
    2- Shark meat is probably one of the best meats you can eat, one of the only know creatures not to be affected by cancer! it has show evidence of being able to prevent cancer on those who ingest its cartilage and oils.

    The consumption of oceanic fishes creating toxic level in humans is a COMPLETE HOAX, driven by environmental freaks determine that the tuna population (probably the whole ocean for that matter) is under attack by the human race and will do anything to guilt you into not catching fish of any kind. This group is alive and well in Cayman as well, not just in the US and EU.

    Why all the drama?? Its not like this guy was shark fin hunting for crying out loud.

    I’m getting sick of all these ecowacko’s ready continually ready to assault anyone who dares consume an animal of any kind has to face the persecution of the PETA police.

    Guys! GOOD CATCH!!

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  6. I do not buy the Story about deep hooking. Even if were true, releasing a rare species in the hope it survives is a far better solution than enriching yourselves by the slaughter and sale of the meat. Irresponsible in the first order. The greater question is why the Cayman government does not protect its shark population. Certainly scuba
    will flock to the reefs hoping to see shark species, the DoE can study the animals from a scientific standpoint and Cayman becomes a better place. How difficult is it. Just do it!

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  7. Catching and eating sharks is not and has never been illegal in the Cayman Islands…

    Its not something that been the norm but its not been unheard of in Cayman’s seafaring past either…

    Many Caymanians have eaten shark meat in the past and claim it to be quite good…just like the Japanese.

    What a to do over nothing !

    I quess some weird people would rather go swim with them; crazy world we live in nowadays.

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  8. In regards to user Alfonso’s comment
    What utter nonsense! The scalloped hammerhead shark was added to the globally endangered species list in 2008 or so. Among the reasons were over-fishing and demand for shark fins, according to discussions that had taken place at the American Association for the Advancement of Science aka AAAS (Not some sort of wacko tree-hugger convention.)

    Second, since when is mercury-toxicity a HOAX?? Again, a presumption made by someone who has not thorougly researched the subject in Health… high levels of toxic mercury, called methylmercury, has been found in blood and hair samples taken from many men, women and children. Many suffer from symptoms associated with low-level mercury poisoning, including hair loss, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating and headaches. The implication is that anyone who consumes a lot of fish, especially large steak fish such as swordfish and shark, are at risk.

    So maybe Mister Alfonso should read a bit more… Whether or not this was an accident and the shark indeed could not be saved, it’s still disturbing.

    That’s my two-cents worth

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