Save our Sharks van start op alle eilanden en in Blijdorp
The Save Our Sharks project of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) was launched at Rotterdam Blijdorp Zoo on Wednesday with a presentation and the reading of the children’s book The Adventures of Stanley the Shark and Friends to two classes of a local school.
“Sharks are the cleaners of our oceans. They keep our reefs healthy. Yet, they are an endangered species and must be protected,” said Ron van der Veer of DCNA at the opening ceremony conveniently held in the Shark’s Room at Blijdorp’s Oceanium in the presence of at least ten sharks that were swimming by in the adjacent huge aquarium.
DCNA’s Save Our Sharks project came about through a donation of the Dutch National Postcode Lottery, which made 1.5 million euros available for three years to set up programmes on all six Dutch Caribbean islands. Associated events will take place on the islands this week. The book Shark Stanley and Friends by Ben Goldfarb, Leah Meth and Dan Yagmin Jr., will be distributed on the islands in English, Papiamentu and Dutch.
The Save Our Sharks programme’s objectives are three-fold, explained Van der Veer. “Firstly, scientific research, because we don’t know enough about these majestic animals. Secondly, PR and education involving schools, fishermen and diving schools about why sharks are so important and how to deal with them. And, thirdly, more focus on legislation and upholding of the laws to protect this species. We want more and better control of the illegal fishing of sharks,” he told this newspaper.
Why this project? Sharks are not only an essential part of the fragile sea eco-system, but also because they are an important factor in dive tourism on the islands. “Divers love to see sharks,” said Van der Veer. “Sharks are very special animals. They have been around longer than dinosaurs.”
The Rotterdam school children present at Wednesday’s event were eager to learn more about sharks. They bombarded children’s ambassador and journalist Tako Rietveld, who was sitting their midst, with questions. The children could hardly believe Rietveld’s explanation that sharks are not that dangerous as many think. Most sharks eat fish and are not out to attack humans.
In fact, Rietveld explained, the mosquito is far more dangerous than the shark, and causes way more deaths than the sea animal. The shark is not even in the top five of the most deadly species. “So how come the mosquito is more dangerous when it is so small and the shark is way bigger,” asked one boy. “That is because the mosquito can give you dangerous illnesses like malaria when it pricks you,” said Rietveld.
Together with 2015 Rotterdam Carnival Queen Whitney van Ommeren, Rietveld read the Stanley the Shark book to the children, also much to the delight of the many adults who enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the sight of the sharks, sea turtles and many Caribbean fish swimming in front of them.
The audience included Aruba Minister Plenipotentiary Alfonso Boekhoudt, Curaçao Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary Roberto Candelaria, members of the Dutch Shark Society, the National Postcode Lottery, Dutch World Wildlife Fund WNF and DCNA.
Daily Herald / 27 augustus 2015 / Suzanne Koelega