DiverWire Contributing Writer Jillian Morris checks in with us from the Bahamas this week with exciting news.
The Shark Free Marina Initiative is one devoted to reducing worldwide shark mortality rates. Participating marinas will prohibit the landing of any shark within the marina for any purpose (i.e. meat processing, photos, and finning). They will encourage the practice of catch and release for those who insist on sport fishing for sharks. The movement is gaining strength and spreading globally, as people realize that it can be a powerful tool in shark conservation.
Duncan Brake and I live on the island of Bimini and as regional ambassadors for the campaign, we have been working on recruiting other marinas in the Bahamas. The Bimini Sands Resort and Marina was the first in all of the Bahamas to sign onto the campaign and has motivated others to follow suit. Bimini is a special location because big game fishing is as deeply rooted in its culture as are Hemingway and rum.
Weekend warriors travel from Florida in search of a prize fish. They hit known shark diving spots, shooting fish in a barrel so to speak. They also fish for sharks within the marinas, only to haul them onto the docks, take a picture, cut out their jaws and then throw the remains back. It is important to educate those who visit and live in Bimini on the importance of sharks to the ecosystems. Conch, lobster and fishing are staples in the economy and without sharks they will not exist. It is necessary that the locals understand this connection if they are expected to get involved and take action.
In March of this year I introduced the campaign to Nathan Moody, director of operations at the Old Bahama Bay Marina. Located on the West End of Grand Bahama, the marina is the customs clearance point for the primary liveaboard vessels that run Tiger Beach dive charters. Nathan was very excited about the project and eager to get the resort involved. They wanted to be on point with conservation messages and to encourage a positive image about sharks.
It took several months to get all the necessary people on the same page and in the same spot, but on September 10, 2009 the marina officially hung its Shark Free signs. The marina runs at high occupancy, so there is a massive turnover of boaters that will see the signs. This is a huge step for the Bahamas and a victory for sharks. Their involvement will hopefully be a catalyst for other large marinas throughout the islands to join. Even though marinas are hesitant to turn customers away with the current economic situation, it is crucial for them to understand that saving the ocean far exceeds the money that shark fisherman would have spent. As prominent marinas join, like Old Bahama Bay, we hope a strong message echoes across the globe.
For more information on the campaign or to sign on check out www.sharkfreemarinas.com