This week saw a sad story when on Tuesday, a shark was found on Dr Grooms beach. The shark which most likely looked, to some men on the beach, as invading their area turned out to be a Mako shark which is officially in the endangered species bracket. It is the belief of people who have studied marine biology that most likely it accidentally found its way into one of our beaches.
We have recently heard of invasive species of shark being sighted in areas beyond their native ranges, and most times people deem them harmful to the local environment, which results in negative consequences. In Tuesday’s event it is still not clear why the shark was on the beach. Some environmentalists say that it is not normal for the Mako shark to swim near the shore except the male is sick or the female is ready to give birth.
The incident of the men on the beach capturing the shark was a sad one which attracted many negative comments on social media. However, this should not be used to measure everyone in Grenada since there are those who think that an arrest should be made on the basis of cruelty to dumb animals. Only last week a young man who was feeding a piglet with white powder was arrested and charged in Carriacou. He is now awaiting his day in court. This may sound like tough love but the message has to be driven home. Animals have their rights too!
As we examine the incidents, we somehow must see that some parts of our culture may be responsible for our behavior and this we must work to change. Why is shark and bake still on the menu in some islands? The time has come to understand that animals do feel pain; but then again the barbarous act that made the rounds on social media maybe was done out of ignorance. We were taught to be afraid of sharks, whales and other large species in the ocean. Even the Government through press releases inadvertently instill fear in the public as people are warned of sharks in our area. There are reports of one or two people being bitten by sharks in neighbouring islands, so there comes the need to educate the populace in a bid to bring on peaceful co-existence. One environmentalist noted that there are no reports of the Mako sharks attacking humans; but being devoid of that bit of information, any sightings of sharks will cause panic by the general public.
We heard the utterances on the beach as the men pulled the shark onshore that it’s either they kill us or we kill them. In the 1950s a situation occurred on the Carenage, Saint George’s where the sea rolled back in what some people believe was a volcanic eruption. There are some people who remember running on to the sand to collect fish and other sea animals, totally unaware of what was happening there. We expect a more civilized and educated approach in these modern times when Grenadians are even taking up studies in Marine Biology and the environment.
The Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, Fisheries and Co-operatives circulated an advice to the general public, visitors and fisherfolk to exercise extreme caution when venturing out to sea. But shouldn’t that be standard procedure at all times?
While the videos that were making the rounds showed the shark not resisting being captured as it was dragged on shore to be slaughtered, the Government’s press release made reference to an aggressive shark sighted and caught within the marine environment of Dr Grooms Beach on February 16, 2021.
We saw the shark being pulled ashore yet the release said that the shark appeared to have beached itself for unknown reasons.
One of our Biologists is of the opinion that the sightings of sharks near neighboring islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis and Dominica could be as a result of climate change. Another Biologist is calling on the government to pay attention to the very wording of the notices which can cause panic.
Deb Eastwood, one of our top swimming instructors who spends a lot of time in the sea, told this newspaper that she checked in with two marine biologists yesterday and they both say it is very safe to swim in Grenada. She said the Mako shark is a deep water shark which was near the coastal area because it was probably sick or injured. “There is no danger and I went snorkeling near that same beach Wednesday. Also all of our swim programs will continue at our various locations. I realize there’s a lot of fear right now, but in reality there is little danger. It’s not that Grenada has no sharks, but the ones that are around do not hurt people. The situation yesterday was an exception to the norm. In reality sharks are not increasing in Grenada, they’re actually decreasing throughout the Caribbean,” she added.
Of course people should exit the water immediately if a shark is seen; but moreover they should refrain from catching or removing from the water any shark that comes near the shore. Another area of concern is consuming the meat from a beached shark if the reason for beaching is unknown. As is the case of the coronavirus we have heard a lot about viruses that can affect animals as well as humans so it is necessary to act wisely when dealing with the unknown.