Louis Bacon’s Moore Bahamas Foundation supports Shark Week School Tour
Students on New Providence were surprised to learn that sharks in The Bahamas control the weather. Marine biologist Dr. Demian Chapman, from Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and Global FinPrint, explained how during his school presentation.
“They make it rain.”
The joke, played out during a presentation, illustrated the undeniable connection between thriving shark populations in The Bahamas and its booming shark tourism industry, thanks in part to the Bahamas Shark Sanctuary established in 2011.
The school visits, funded by The Moore Bahamas Foundation (MBF) and coordinated by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (B.R.E.E.F.), formed the education and outreach portion of a larger shark expedition, now in its fourth year and also supported by MBF. During the expedition, scientists tagged and tracked sharks throughout The Bahamas to better understand their behaviors and priority habitats. The findings of these expeditions are central in documenting and promoting healthy shark populations in The Bahamas.
“Dr. Chapman’s school presentations help to show students in The Bahamas that their country is a world leader in shark protection — and that conservation is financially prudent,” said Louis Bacon, MBF founder. “We hope this will inspire increased interest in and protection of the marine environment of the islands.”
“You’ve seen those pink buses driving around?” asked Chapman to the classes, referring to successful dive outfit Stuart Cove’s transport fleet. “Those are all tourists, who do a lot more than dive. They stay in hotels. They eat in restaurants. They take taxis, buy clothes and go to festivals. And that’s money for many different businesses and people in The Bahamas — all thanks to your healthy sharks.”
Chapman, who swims with sharks “sometimes for research and sometimes for fun,” shared personal stories of the world’s largest fish with students in five schools across New Providence. He spoke about how the apex predators bring in tens of millions of dollars to the Bahamian economy.
Another number that shocked the students from St. Anne’s, C.H. Reeve’s Jr. High, T.G. Glover Primary, D.W. Davis Jr. High and Temple Christian High School was one million — the number of sharks killed by humans globally each year, mostly for shark fin soup, considered a delicacy in Asia. As a result, shark populations around the world have been depleted by 90 percent to 99 percent, with some species facing imminent extinction.
By contrast, the population in The Bahamas, one of the world’s first shark sanctuaries where killing a shark is illegal, remains healthy, Chapman said. He highlighted the work of Global FinPrint, a not-for-profit research organization that he founded to map the populations of sharks globally and identify the areas most critical for conservation.
Using footage from Go-Pro cameras placed on the ocean floor with bait, Global FinPrint records the number and variety of creatures visiting to eat, ultimately assessing the presence of families and species of sharks in various regions.
“Here in The Bahamas, without fail, we see a shark — maybe five — every time. Hammerheads, lemon sharks, nurse sharks, many, many kinds,” Chapman confirmed.
Global FinPrint has recently broadened its focus to rays, a close cousin of sharks, by extending its team to include Batoidea expert Katie Flowers, a graduate of SoMAS (School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences) in Marine Conservation and Policy. “Rays are more critically endangered than sharks, and we know a lot less about them,” Flowers said.
Global FinPrint hopes to change this by mapping their movement and creating important data sets useful for mounting a case for protection — even inclusion in the Shark Sanctuary legislation.
Dr. Chapman believes Bahamians should be proud of the work they have done to ensure the protection of their sharks — but must ensure these magnificent creatures remain protected in the future.
“We all must work to keep the right protections in place to ‘make it rain’ for future generations,” said Dr. Chapman.
About The Moore Bahamas Foundation: The Moore Bahamas Foundation, the Bahamas affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation founded by Louis Bacon in 1992, seeks to promote environmental education in the diverse ecosystems of The Bahamas. The Moore Bahamas Foundation supports environmental education to encourage protection of the fragile marine environment that constitutes 90% of the island nation. MBF supports marine education programs that prove successful in building awareness, particularly among students, about the importance of preserving precious marine and land resources. MBF also supports health, conservation and marine research efforts.
About Stony Brook School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences: The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University is an interdisciplinary center for education, research, and public service. SoMAS’ mission is to increase fundamental understanding, through research and education, of the oceans and atmosphere, their interactions, and the life systems they support. SoMAS also develop and communicate innovative solutions to the environmental problems of society at local, regional, national, and global scales.