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News : Local Last Updated: Feb 17, 2017 - 2:46:45 PM

Bimini students learn about economic value of sharks and rays
By Sharks4Kids
Feb 14, 2017 - 11:00:27 PM

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Shark Crew aboard the Bimini Scuba Center boat (Photo: Duncan Brake)

Bimini, The Bahamas -  In February, Sharks4Kids once again teamed up with Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center to take local students out for a day of shark education. Louise McDonald High School science teacher Mr. Delreco Bonaby was joined by 11 students in grades 7, 8 and 9 for a trip to Honeymoon Harbour, located on a small cay just south of Bimini. Students were able to see 2 bull sharks cruising around in the marina before even boarding the boat, which was a great way to start the adventure.

During the boat ride Sharks4Kids founder Jillian Morris taught the students about local sharks and the Bahamas Shark Sanctuary. These students have incredible animals in their backyard and it’s crucial for them to understand the important role sharks play both for the environment, but also the economy. A study recently released by the Cape Eleuthera Institute stated that sharks and rays generate $113.8 USD annually to the Bahamian economy. Helping the next generation understand the role they can play in protecting these natural resources is necessary. These students will vote, spend money and have careers impacted by these animals.

Once on site the students geared up and headed to the shallow protected beach at Honeymoon Harbour. Very quickly Southern stingrays came swooping in, along with blacknose sharks and a blacktip shark. Students were able to touch the stingrays and gain a better understanding of these animals. While some of the students were nervous at first, all of them eventually joined in the experience. It is amazing to see rays with sharks, as it is a great way to compare and contrast these closely related animals.

Students meeting a southern stingray (Photo: Jillian Morris)

After spending time with the rays while kneeling on the beach, the students had the chance to snorkel around and swim with the rays. Having first hand experience with an animal helps create a connection. They have their own story to tell, which will hopefully mean they will be future advocates for sharks and for the oceans.

On the way home the team stopped at Triangle Rocks to watch Caribbean reef sharks. The students got to throw a few pieces of bait in the water and watch as the sharks finned at the surface. Bull sharks, blacktip shark, blacknose sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and Southern stingrays; not a bad day on the water!

“It’s always amazing to see how excited the students get and how their fear or nervousness is quickly replaced with excitement," said Jillian Morris about the experience. "We know they go home and share their stories with friends and family, which helps us spread a positive message for sharks.  Special thanks to Neal Watson Jr, Jamie Ferguson, the Bimini Scuba Center Crew and Mr. Bonaby for making this possible," she added.

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