A young tiger shark called Coco, who was tagged off Grand Cayman last year, has returned to local waters.
Coco was one of three female tiger sharks tagged as part of a tagging programme run by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, Marine Conservation International, the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, the Save Our Seas Foundation and Foster’s Food Fair.
She left Grand Cayman last June and has spent her time off Jamaica, but in early February, she began heading back to the Cayman Islands. However, she is not expected to stay long.
Mauvis Gore of Marine Conservation International said: “Coco may wander further afield as she matures and has the capacity to undertake even longer migrations.”
All three of the tagged tiger sharks, Coco, Luiza and Tina, have proved to be energetic, crossing great swathes of the Caribbean Sea relatively quickly. Coco, the youngest of the trio, has remained the longest around favoured areas.
Ms Gore is part of a team from Marine Conservation International and leads the project funded by the United Kingdom’s Overseas Territory Environment Programme and the Save Our Seas Foundation.
Coco’s tag enables researchers to keep track of her movements, giving them insight into the life of a young tiger shark.
Researchers have been tagging and tracking sharks and rays as part of the extensive survey, which has so far shown that there are fewer sharks than expected in local waters, with numbers being particularly low on Cayman Brac.
Tim Austin, deputy director of the Department of Environment, said: “There have been scientific studies on coral reefs to show that the presence of sharks promotes healthy reef life, which is a worry for us as we depend on tourism to our shores.”
Local conservationists have been trying to bring about an attitude adjustment toward sharks to try to convince people that they need to be protected and not feared and killed. A popular documentary about sharks by marine-life artist and conservationist Guy Harvey that was shown earlier this year at Hollywood Theatres in Camana Bay highlighting that “sharks are not the bad guys” drew large audiences.
The tagging project also works with fishermen and divers whose expertise and observations are important to the project.
To report any sightings of sharks, whales or dolphins, email the Department of Environment at [email protected]