Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources has announced that the Division of Fish and Wildlife has published a new guide to common sharks of the Virgin Islands with guidance for swimmers.
The guide is especially timely as reputable scientific sources like the International Union for the Conservation of Nature report more than 30 percent decline of sharks worldwide.
Sharks commonly found in the waters of the Virgin Islands include the lemon shark (near threatened – Negaprion vrevirostris), nurse shark (data deficient – Ginglymostoma cirratum), Caribbean reef shark (near threatened – Carcharhinus perezi), grey reef shark (endangered – Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos), and blacktip reef shark (near threatened – Carcharhinus limbatus).
Large marine fish, like sharks, enhance and improve fish habitats by culling weak fish, thereby promoting healthy fish populations. As such, sharks are harbingers of healthy ecosystems. Sharks in the oceans support abundant populations of reef and pelagic sport fish species that are important for the territory’s fisheries and economy. Shark tourism is also popular among divers and contributes to a portion of V.I. tourism industry. Fewer than 35 shark attacks have occurred since the year 2000 across the entire Caribbean, with only five fatalities.
The following recommendations are provided to ensure that outdoor recreation in V.I. marine waters is a fun and safe experience for swimmers of all ages.
Always swim with a buddy.
Follow posted swim guidelines.
Listen to lifeguards.
Swim in clear, calm water.
Don’t approach or feed sharks.
For more information, contact the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources at 773-1082 or visit https://dpnr.vi.gov/fish-and-wildlife/fish/