BioNews special: Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary

The Dutch Caribbean is an important area for marine mammals, sharks and rays. More than twenty marine mammal and thirty shark and ray species are reported in these waters. These animals have important ecological roles in maintaining the health of coral reefs and open ocean ecosystems and possess major potential for eco-based tourism and recreational activities. 

Marine mammal, shark and raypopulations around the globe are threatened by overfishing, habitat loss and other anthropogenic pressures.  Marine mammals, sharks and raysTheyrely on a network of interlinked habitats throughout their hundreds, or even thousands, of kilometers journeys. Breeding and feeding grounds and migratory routes are especially important for conservation. Therefore, it is of great importance to create a network of marine protected areas within the Caribbean and beyond, to safeguard these transboundary species.

The YarariMarine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary was established in the Dutch Caribbean on September 1, 2015. The YarariSanctuary comprises all the waters of Bonaire and Saba, and as of September 2018, St. Eustatius. The name of the sanctuary “Yarari”is a Taíno Indian word, meaning ‘a fine place’. It is intended to provide “a fine place” for marine mammals, sharks and rays, where they will receive the necessary attention to ensure their protection.

This special edition of BioNews contains information on the YarariMarine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary and an overview of the current knowledge on marine mammals, sharks and rays. As it is intended to eventually also include the other, neighboring, Dutch Caribbean islands: Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, we present the available shark, ray and marine mammal information for the entire Dutch Caribbean.

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