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Expedition on the Saba Bank to Enhance Tiger Shark Protection

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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This August a team of researchers will spend a week on the Saba Bank investigating the life-cycle of tiger sharks. Researchers will investigate the migration routes, where and when tiger sharks breed so they can protect them better within the Dutch Caribbean’s Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary as well as beyond. In this expedition members from the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM), St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA), STINAPA Bonaire, the Aruba National Parks Foundation (FPNA), the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and World Wildlife Fund for Nature the Netherlands (WWF-NL) will participate.

In 2016, the Saba Conservation Foundation, Nature Foundation St. Maarten, and Sharks for Kids  partnered together as part of DCNA’s Save our Sharks Project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. Since then, satellite tagging of tiger sharks has been conducted on the Saba Bank and around Sint Maarten. Through this research we now know that tiger sharks in Dutch waters travel throughout the Caribbean basin, with most of these tagged sharks being sexually mature females. During the upcoming expedition the researchers aim to not only tag and track more tiger sharks to further investigate the life cycle, but they will also measure if and how large the pups inside pregnant tiger sharks are. This will help to determine if the Saba Bank is in fact a breeding ground for tiger sharks, one of the main goals of the expedition.

(c) Sami Kattan

The other objective is to see where these transboundary sharks migrate to in order to better understand the importance of the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary and protect other geographical areas. The Yarari Sanctuary was established on September 1, 2015 and aims to protect marine mammals, sharks, and rays throughout the waters of Bonaire, Saba, and since September 2018, St. Eustatius. Collaboration between not only the six Dutch Caribbean islands but countries across the wider Caribbean as a whole is necessary in order to protect and conserve these essential species and ecosystems. Therefore the Caribbean Shark Coalition was recently formed to collaborate better in the entire Greater Caribbean region.

Celebrated on July 28 each year, World Nature Conservation Day acknowledges that a healthy environment is the foundation for a stable and healthy society. This includes a healthy ocean which, undoubtedly, depends on sharks. Sharks are large top predators that serve a critical role in maintaining balance in the marine ecosystem. Sharks help keep their prey population healthy by eating the weak while also affecting their prey’s distribution. In healthy oceans, sharks help to maintain stable fish stocks and healthy coral reefs and seagrass beds, which is important for the fisheries and the economy of the islands.

The Tiger Shark research expedition is coordinated by the DCNA and generously funded by WWF-NL through the Biodiversity Funds and the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

For more information on the Pregnant Tiger Shark Expedition, follow the participating organizations on Facebook, Instagram or DCNA’s website.

Header image: Jarrett Corke (WWF Canada)

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and they are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

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Lovin’ Saint Lucia: Two wreck dives and a wedding (part 3)

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Whilst we have been lucky enough to dive in much of the Caribbean, Saint Lucia was still on our wish list. Until November when we got a chance to visit this beautiful island on a 6-night diving trip that would see us enjoy with incredible scenery both above and below the waves. We were able to sample three different hotels, dined at a host of local eateries, spoke to local school kids about the ocean and even took a tour into the rainforest canopy. Find out all about this trip over this series of three blogs on Caribbean Dive Adventures.


Our final day of diving saw us heading south again to the wreck of the Lesleen M. The wreck was sunk as an artificial reef in 1986. It sits upright in the water just off Anse Cochon in about 20m of water at its deepest point. AS it has been in the water for over 3 decades, it is now covered in marine life. Yellow and purple sponges rise up from the deck and off railings. Gorgonian corals created huge curtains across the walkways and on the bow and stern. The prop is covered in orange sponges and cup corals. Barracuda and porcupinefish cruise the middle section of the boat. Schools of reef fish live in the covered section of the stern. There is life everywhere you look. To make the most of this dive, bring a light, as the colours are incredible.

We were lucky to have been able to dive the wreck as a buddy pair, without any other groups. But we loved the dive so much we asked if we could join the group for another dive on the wreck as our final dive of the trip. However, the group we were going to dive with were a little bit special! Two of the group had got married the day before. Nine of the family (mum, dad, the happy couple, sisters, brothers, and their partners) who had come to Saint Lucia for the wedding were on our boat. We offered to take an underwater photo of them. Getting the shot was not as easy as we had first thought though! Getting them all still, in the same place, not blowing bubbles at inappropriate times turned out to be a challenge! It was, however, a joyous way to finish off our diving on Saint Lucia.

Our final day saw us heading to new heights, via a cable car experience into the rainforest canopy. Not only does this trip offer stunning views over the island, but our guide was so knowledgeable we also learned plenty about the local fauna and flora of the island. This is the perfect activity for the non-diving day at the end of a trip. A final cocktail in the beautiful setting of the Harbor Club as the sun set saw us reflect on a super trip. We barely scratched the surface of what Saint Lucia has to offer. Alas we never got to experience the diving in the north of the island, so we will have to return to rectify that. Hopefully sometime soon!


Nick and Caroline were hosted by:

Eastern Caribbean Diving

Bay Gardens Marina Haven & Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa

The Harbor Club

Travel Saint Lucia

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Blogs

Lovin’ Saint Lucia: Kids and Critters (Part 2)

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Whilst we have been lucky enough to dive in much of the Caribbean, Saint Lucia was still on our wish list. Until November when we got a chance to visit this beautiful island on a 6-night diving trip that would see us enjoy with incredible scenery both above and below the waves. We were able to sample three different hotels, dined at a host of local eateries, spoke to local school kids about the ocean and even took a tour into the rainforest canopy. Find out all about this trip over this series of three blogs on Caribbean Dive Adventures.


After our first two days of diving in the south of the island, below the magnificent Piton mountains, it was time for a day off. Usually we would pack in a much diving as possible on a short trip like this, we had been invited to speak at a local school. Our hotel, Bay Gardens Beach Hotel and Spa, already support the school with a breakfast club to ensure the kids start the day with a good meal. They asked us if we might go and speak about the ocean, marine life, conservation and our work. As the school did not have a room big enough to hold all the kids, we setup in the local church. The kids filed in and sat in rows of pews and we chatted about the marine life that can be found both in the waters surrounding Saint Lucia and further afield. They knowledge of shark species was incredible! They even identified a Basking Shark correctly! We were stunned when they presented us with a huge box of local fruits they had picked from their gardens as a thank you. Our driver then took us for a drive around the north of the island to show us some of the plentiful beauty spots.

Back diving again, we still headed south, but to sample some different diving from our first two days. We were delighted to dive over a healthy seagrass bed that was home to a host of marine life. Snake eels skimmed along through the blades of grass, flounder lay camouflaged, and several species of crustacean could be found once you got your eye in. A huge Southern Stingray lay buried in the sand and our guide, Mervin, was delighted to find a seahorse (that did not want to be photographed). Dotted throughout the seagrass bed, coral bommies were a haven for small marine life critters. Eels and lobster hid in the crevices, while small juvenile fish darted through the coral and sponges.

Whilst we were on an all-inclusive basis at our hotels, we love to get out and about to try local establishments where we can. So each evening we would take a stroll to the waterfront to sample some excellent food and a local beer or cocktail, whilst watching the sun go down. The perfect way to finish off a great day of diving.


Nick and Caroline were hosted by:

Eastern Caribbean Diving

Bay Gardens Marina Haven & Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa

The Harbor Club

Travel Saint Lucia

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