Beer fuels shark conservation effort

In a nod to the recent airing of the hit television series “Shark Week”, and to celebrate the first anniversary of locally-brewed White Tip Lager, the Cayman Islands Brewery last week presented a cheque for $24,004 to the Department of Environment’s marine conservation efforts.

The conservation efforts, which benefit from a portion of the sales from each bottle and can of lager sold, help fund initiatives like the Cayman Sharks and Dolphin Project.

Before presenting the cheque, brewery spokesman Matthew Leslie said that almost a half-million bottles of the lager were sold in the first year of production.

“The main thing is to make sure that we get the word out that killing sharks isn’t cool,” he said. “You got 73 million sharks per year being killed and that’s a lot. The white tip shark, which is what our beer is named after, is probably the most hunted because of their large fins.”

Although shark finning is not a popular practice in the Caribbean, the region is still no safe haven for sharks.

Timothy Austin, deputy director for the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, said misconceptions about sharks still result in unnecessary kills.

“People who catch sharks think they’re bad, so they kill them,” he said, adding that there are no existing legal protections for sharks in the Cayman Islands. Nevertheless, with the money raised through White Tip sales, Mr. Austin said he believes that public perception is shifting.

“Sharks have a really bad reputation globally, but certainly here we see that people are enjoying seeing them,” he said. The event at Royal Palms on Saturday included a performance by local band Zipper Envy.

James Gibb, DoE research officer and musician with the band, said Zipper Envy performed at the launch of the White Tip Lager bottles last year, and were only too happy to continue the tradition.

“We’re all shark lovers,” he said. “Everyone here loves the ocean one way or another.”

Mr. Leslie said consumers of White Tip Lager can feel good about their contribution.

“You’re killing three birds with one stone: You’re drinking a great beer, you’re supporting a local company, and you’re contributing money to a really worthy cause,” he said.

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