It was a beautiful winter day with a light north easterly wind, providing for calm conditions in the protection of West Bay, anticipating the deployment and sinking of the USS Kittiwake here in Grand Cayman. Accompanied by Jessica and Alexander, my kids who are both keen divers, we anchored outside the perimeter marked off by the Department of Environment and the Marine Police. Regular updates on the VHF radio gave us an idea of the history of the ship and the projected sinking schedule. The details of the ship’s construction and service can be found on a number of dedicated websites.
Pumping sea water into the hold began around 10:30 a.m. At approximately 2:25 p.m. she started sinking rapidly, stern going down and listing sharply to port. I bet a number of people were holding their breath as it seemed she would topple over in spite of all the preparations, and then appeared to sink upright as air rushed from the port holes and open hatches.
I am a great supporter of artificial reefs, even in a coral reef environment such as ours. Socio economic studies of artificial reefs in Florida demonstrate hundreds of thousands of dollars generated by individual artificial reefs from diving and sport fishing activity each year. As it took about 8 years for this project to be executed, perhaps we, the diving community, the Cayman Island Tourism Association and the Cayman Island Government should immediately start the search for another suitable ship for an artificial reef to be the successor to the “Kittiwake”. I will put my money where my mouth is and volunteer my Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) to assist in locating and funding the next ship.
Talking of mouths, the tiger shark has a big, wide mouth adapted to ripping large chunks out of dead, decaying marine mammals and has large serrated teeth, with re-curved tips designed like a can opener to feed on turtles. Tiger sharks have been of great interest to me and my research arm, the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI). We have tagged or sponsored the electronic tagging of 41 tiger sharks in the north western Atlantic in the last two years. Each SPOT (Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting) tag deployed to the dorsal fin of the shark costs about $2,500 and then another $500 for the satellite time and monitoring. We have tagged tigers: 28 in Bermuda, 7 in the United States Virgin Islands, 4 in the Bahamas and just recently two in Grand Cayman.
The GHRI and GHOF collaborated with a number of research organizations in each of these island territories, which is why the project has been so successful. Tiger sharks, we are now discovering, make seasonal migrations spending much of the warm summer months cruising in the open ocean, often in very deep water, looking for migrating turtles and feeding opportunistically on dead floating animals such as dolphin, whales, fish and sea birds. In the winter, they move into the reef environment around oceanic islands in the Caribbean and Bahamas and will come into very shallow water targeting rays, fish and lobsters.
The Overseas Territories Environmental Programme, with assistance from the DoE, has sponsored a shark population analysis study in the Cayman Islands. Being particularly interested in tiger sharks here, the GHOF sponsored SPOTs when the team caught and tagged two tigers in early December 2010. Both were caught at night in North Sound and successfully released bearing an internal sonic tag and external SPOT attached to the dorsal fin. Each time the animal swims at the surface, the tag sends a signal to a satellite giving its position very accurately. The team was also able to tag Caribbean reef sharks, black tip sharks and nurse sharks—all caught at night in North Sound.
Divers and photographers have been safely interacting with tiger sharks for decades and have watched in horror as their numbers and those of other pelagic migratory sharks have been annihilated for the last three decades in the shark fin trade that threatens to clear all sharks from the planet.
If you are lucky enough to see one of the tiger sharks we have tagged, please send me or the DoE a photo of the animal. If you happen to catch one while out fishing, then please release the animal alive (as you should release all sharks alive) responsibly. In time, all shark species around Cayman will receive the protection they surely need under the new Conservation Law.
Fish responsibly, dive safely.
— Guy Harvey
For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com
- Grabbing Tigers By the Tail — A Return to Bermuda —Part I
- Grabbing Tigers By the Tail — A Return to Bermuda —Part II
- Cayman Island Creates New Artificial Reef with Sinking of the ex-USS Kittiwake
- Meeting with Sir Richard Branson
- Stingray Census, Grand Cayman, July 2012