The Department of Environment has issued a reminder to the public not to harass or disturb marine wildlife after videos and photos of a shark spotted close to shore along Seven Mile Beach made the rounds over the weekend.
The DoE, responding to queries from the Cayman Compass, said it received about seven different reports from members of the public about seeing the shark.
“Sightings were reported along Seven Mile Beach in front of the Kimpton, Westin, and Ritz-Carlton hotels,” the DoE said.
In assessing a video that had been shared, the DoE said it was a reef shark.
“But it is hard to tell from the video whether it is a blacktip or Caribbean reef shark. The DoE’s best guess based on the video quality is that it seems to be a Caribbean reef shark because they are more abundant than blacktips in Cayman,” the DoE said.
In one of the videos people could be seen walking along the coastline and pointing to the shark as it swam close to the shore.
“The DoE advises that members of the public should avoid harassing, catching, touching, disturbing, injuring, or killing sharks as they are protected in the Cayman Islands given their essential role in maintaining the healthy balance of our marine ecosystem,” the DoE said.
While the department said it has received occasional reports of reef sharks in very shallow water along Seven Mile Beach in the past, it is not a common occurrence along that particular stretch of coastline near the hotels.
“It is possible that this shark most likely pursued a school of fish e.g. jacks and the fish tried to avoid their predator by heading for shallower water close to the beach,” the DoE said.
This sighting, it said, is not totally unusual.
“However, the recent reduction in boat traffic and water activities (e.g. jet skis, cruise ships and diving) has likely had a positive effect on local shark population behaviour as our previous research showed that sharks tend to avoid areas with high human activity,” it added.
Members of the public who saw the shark, the department said, “were very lucky to see such an extraordinary event so close up given that sharks tend to avoid areas of high human activity and their populations remain highly threatened”.
Joyce Imparato Beard, who caught the shark on video, said it was an amazing sight for her.
“It was pretty cool seeing the shark on Seven Mile as it’s the first I’ve seen in about 30 years,” she said via Facebook messenger, adding, “the shark was being tailed by a boat, jet ski and large crowd which may have kept it closer to shore for longer than it would have initially intended”.
The DoE encouraged the public to report all shark sightings by contacting the department at 949-8469 or [email protected], or via its social media channels @doecayman “as this will help in ongoing local shark research”.