Tiger Sharks and the Saba Bank
Hi everyone. My name is Ayumi Kuramae Izioka and I work as the as the science coordinator and daily operations manager of the Saba Bank Management Unit (SBMU), on Saba in the Dutch Caribbean.
Saba Bank- Dutch Caribbean. © DCNA/Eseld Imms
The Saba Bank National Park is a large, submerged atoll just 3 nautical miles south of the island of Saba. With a surface area of over 2600km2, it is classified as the 3rd largest of its kind in the world. Such a large area has many different habitats which in turn attracts many different species from the region. With so many different life and biodiversity, it has been classified as biodiverse hotspot in the Caribbean region and recently, it is a marine mammal and shark sanctuary named “Yarari”.
Many different shark species are seen on the Saba Bank, ranging from pelagic species like the Silky sharks to benthic species like the nurse sharks. These sharks are most often seen by fishermen, but also by the park officers who maintain the national park. One of the larger shark species that is commonly seen on the Saba Bank, is the tiger shark.
© Daniel Norwood
Tiger sharks are apex predators, meaning that they are on top of the food chain and maintain a healthy balance of the ecosystem. These sharks are transboundary species, meaning that they cross many different waters as they cruise along our ocean, connecting many countries.
In the previous expeditions done on the Saba Bank, most of the tiger sharks captured were females that were big and old enough to start reproduction. But what are these particular sized females doing here on the Saba Bank? Do they hold the clue to the future generation of tiger sharks, right here on the Saba Bank? If they are already pregnant and ready to give birth, why is the Saba Bank so interesting to them? Or where do these sharks move once they are pregnant?
With this expedition, including the new technology of ultrasound for sharks, we hope to answer a few of these questions. So far we have had very successful days of tagging sharks and we can’t wait to show you more about the tiger sharks. We have been investigated 56 sharks- 39 reef sharks, 1 nurse sharks and 16 tiger sharks.
This article was included in the Special Edition BioNews: Tiger Shark Expedition