Ocean Week, Shark Project raising funds and awareness

Volunteer Marique Cloete keeps an eye on the nesting turtle that was found trapped on the ironshore.

Ocean Awareness Week kicked off Sunday, joining with the Department of Environment and its Shark Project, raising public awareness, hoping to persuade private companies to launch conservation efforts and underlining critical issues of marine health.

Ocean Awareness Week is the personal project of PricewaterhouseCoopers Audit Manager Marique Cloete, who this week marks the second year devoting her passion for things oceanic to her company and Cayman’s Shark Project.

“I came up with it last year,” she says about Ocean Awareness Week, “as a sort of challenge for the staff,” about 60 PwC employees, “to engage in sustainable activities.”

She names half-a-dozen ways to contribute: “walking or cycling to work, maybe carpooling,” which, she writes elsewhere, will “cut down on carbon emissions that eventually result in coral bleaching,” long a problem for local reefs.

“You can eliminate single-use plastic,” she says, such as milk and water jugs, grocery store bags for fruit and produce, and sandwich boxes.

“Stop using insect repellent and suntan products,” Ms. Cloete says, and “eat sustainable seafood, and support companies that are committed to environmentally friendly practices.”

More generally, she adds, stealing a government phrase, “reduce, re-use, recycle,” and “raise funds for the people striving to save our oceans [such as] Plastic Free Cayman.”

This week, her PwC colleagues will clean an East End beach and try to remove discarded fishing line from the reef.

“It’s giving back” to the community she says. “I would love to challenge other companies to do similar activities.”

Ms. Cloete’s recommendation to fundraise is something she does “throughout the year,” describing it as a kind of educational activity

Chief among her causes is the DoE Shark Project, the local effort of Marine Conservation International, which boasts at least three similar missions elsewhere: the Indian Ocean island nation of the Seychelles, the coral reefs of Saudi Arabia and the west coast of Scotland.

Since 2009, the local Shark Project has counted, tagged, measured, photographed and protected half-a-dozen species in local waters, even naming some of them.

“Louise,” for example, a shark tagged some years ago, has “come back every year about Christmastime,” says Mauvis Gore, project manager and a Ph.D. in marine biology with a zoology specialty.

She oversees a shark logging program, tracking hundreds of individuals – nurse sharks, both black tip and Oceanic whitetip sharks, lemon, silky, tiger and hammerhead sharks.

Numbers, she said, are difficult to judge, but she tentatively proposes that “compared to Belize and Venezuela, we have fewer Caribbean reef sharks than we should.

“We’re a little concerned,” she says, although not ready to sound alarms. “It’s a preliminary analysis: The numbers are not quite high enough,” she suggests, but points to legal offshore and coastal protections for sharks since 2015’s National Conservation Law.

Although working from DoE offices, the project is not funded by government, and PwC’s Ms. Cloete, Ms. Gore says, has been crucial to keeping it afloat. One other funding source is West Bay’s Vivo restaurant, at Lighthouse Point on North West Point Road, beside the Divetech dive shop. Owner Michele Zama, also described as “passionate about the ocean” by both Ms. Gore and Ms. Cloete, said he started working with PwC last year, devising special menus and sharing $5 from every meal with Ocean Week and the Shark Project.

“I pulled the menus together, and Marique said she’d donate the money to the Shark Project,” he said, describing a $29 three-course menu – appetizer, main course and dessert.

The menu includes – but is not limited to – lionfish cakes and sandwiches. Falafel, curry, pasta and even chocolate mousse are available every day between 7 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. during the Nov. 19-24 event.

“This is our special Ocean Week menu,” he said, “but we do a lot of good stuff.”

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