‘Bake and shark’ is a national dish enjoyed by residents and proudly offered to tourists. It consists of a special fried bread roll with fried, seasoned shark and is characterised by the huge variety of salad components and condiments that are traditionally added in generous quantities – including pineapple, a coriander-like seasoning known as ‘chadon beni’, and every sauce you can possibly imagine. However, sharks have been severely depleted in T&T waters in recent years, to the point where most of those in the fish markets appear to be severely undersized. In fact, many bake and shark vendors are now forced to import their shark to keep up with demand.
Papa Bois Conservation and others hope that through educational campaigning, customers will be encouraged to choose an alternative filling for their bakes (the perfect solution would be for the vendors to offer lionfish, which as an invasive species would be the ultimate sustainable choice), and that a shark sanctuary can be established in order to give the populations of Caribbean reef sharks, blue sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, threshers and hammerheads, a chance to recover. This has been successfully achieved in the Bahamas, and discussions are already underway for how it might be feasible here in T&T.
I just joined in for one day – a fun and rewarding experience – but Marc and other volunteers have been doing this regularly at well-chosen sites around the country, gaining some excellent local and international press coverage. Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister for the Environment has recently indicated his support for the campaign, so hopefully this momentum will continue and result in some positive action for sharks, both locally and globally.