Length: 3m (10ft)
Distribution: Tropical Western Atlantic Ocean
Deepest Recorded Depth: 378m (1,240ft)
One of Grand Cayman’s more famous resident is the Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezii). It is one of Cayman’s largest apex predator in the reef ecosystem. Usually found in higher density on the East End of the island. They are known to gather close to drop-offs on the out skirts of shallow reefs; for those of you that dive in Grand Cayman, know that East End provides an idillic habitat for them.
Reef Sharks don’t have particularly outstanding features and they’re often mistaken for Black Tips. They have a short, rounded snout and are dark grey/brown in colour. With 11-13 rows of teeth, they are well equipped to prey on a range of bony fish, cephalopods and even some smaller elasmobranchs.
It appears that mating is an aggressive interaction, and the female normally has bite wounds and scars as a result. Females become pregnant every two years, and have a one year gestation period. They give birth to live young and their litters tend to have between four and six pups.
Unfortunately the Caribbean Reef Shark is listed as “near threatened” on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Redlist. Most divers are aware of the threats that sharks face, and the Caribbean Reef Shark is no exception. They are valued for meat, leather, liver oil and of course their fins. In Colombia they are the most common shark to be landed, yet commercial fishing for them in the USA is prohibited.
The Cayman Islands legally protected all sharks in 2015 (National Conservation Law), as they seem to be more valuable for eco tourism than meat to us. The DOE (Department of Environment) in Grand Cayman has claimed that violators involved in harming sharks can face a $500,000 fine and four years in jail; despite this the DOE reported four Caribbean Reef Sharks dead in 2017.
Come Dive With Them
They are not known to have seasonal behavioural patterns or migratory habits, meaning they can be sighted all year round in Grand Cayman. We know a few dives sites that seem to be more popular with the sharks than others. The most commonly frequented dive site is The Maze. Located just past the South Channel markers, it’s easily accessible for dive boats. With a long drop and a shallow top of 40ft, its a brilliant dive site for all levels of diver; from Open Water Divers to Deep Divers.