World-first hybrid shark found off Australia

January 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

By Dubravka Voloder

Updated January 03, 2012 20:53:48

More than 50 of the hybrid sharks were found in a 2,000-kilometre stretch of coast.

Marine biologists say they have discovered the world’s first hybrid sharks off Australia’s east coast, a potential sign the predators are adapting to cope with climate change.

They say the mating of the Australian black-tip shark with its global counterpart, the common black-tip, is an unprecedented discovery with implications for the entire shark world.

“It was unprecedented because hybridisation between sharks in the wild has never been reported before in Australia or worldwide,” said Dr Jennifer Ovenden from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.

The scientists were examining fish stocks when they found 57 of the hybrid sharks in a 2,000-kilometre stretch of coast. They are a cross between two related but genetically different species.

The larger common black-tip shark swims in the colder waters of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, while the smaller Australian black-tip likes warmer seas.

Dr Ovenden says there is a good reason why these sharks interbreed.

“Species with the smaller body can hybridise with the species with the larger body, allowing that tropical species to move further south,” she said.

“We are thinking that it will provide the sharks with a mechanism to adapt to future environmental change.”

Remarkable

Hybridisation happens among many species in the animal kingdom, including birds and some fish, but until now has been unknown among sharks.

Dr Colin Simpfendorfer, director of the Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre at James Cook University, says the discovery will help expand scientific understanding of sharks.

“It’s obviously a very interesting observation because we’ve never seen hybrid sharks before, and so it’s been hypothesised that it’s possible but we’ve never had any proof that it happens,” he said.

JCU fisheries researcher David Welch says it is a remarkable discovery.

“They actually choose a mate. It’s not like a fish where they actually put eggs and sperm into the water and they can potentially mix,” he said.

“Animal species tend to know their own kind, but in this case there seems to be a high prevalence of them interbreeding.”

The scientists are planning to look for hybridisation in other waters, including the western and northern Australian coasts

***

Sharks play an important role in the health of the marine environment.  Sharks are known for being one of the few animals that never evolved over millions of years as they were perfectly suited to the ocean environment and did not need to adapt.  However the new hybrid sharks show that global changes have caused the sharks to begin to process of evolution in order to survive.

Illegal Shark Fishing Continues in Galapagos

October 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

From El Commercial

Illegal shark fishing continues in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The draft boat operations within the marine reserve is against the law because Sharks are considered a protected species.

Despite the seriousness of these actions, which are considered environmental crimes, and therefore punishable by imprisonment for those involved, the prosecution authorities, the National Park Service and several environmental organizations are very concerned because the judges have released all detainees.

The authorities of Marine Resources and the Office of Environment conducted an operation in the bay and located 225 shark fins. The prosecutor of the Environment, Jose Cevallos, reported that along with the Police authorities, Navy and National Park (PNG) are carried out constant surveillance operations and intelligence to locate the fishing boats illegally entering the Reserve.  However, these criminal operations could be increased, warned Cevallos, encouraged by the performance concessive and accomplice of some judges.

Since last July have been located and captured two ships of industrial fishing in the reserve: the Mary Fer I and six fibers, discovered on July 18.  In that boat were transported 357 sharks, 20 miles inside the reserve. 22 crew members were also captured.

On September 17, Navy personnel stopped fishing the Reina del Cisne and two fibers, which were fishing 34 miles from Punta Pitt on San Cristobal Island (6 miles within the Reserve).  Given the blatant crime, the prosecutor acted Cevallos office, in coordination with the park authorities, filing appropriate actions before Judge Criminal Guarantees First, Jorge Cabrera Monserrate, who initially ordered the imprisonment of 12 people.

Unexpectedly, the judge on Tuesday declared the nullity of this trial, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the process that should be handled in Superior Court in Guayaquil.

“I just made the judge is an outrage, because it is failing against the provisions of the Special Law for Galapagos, which empowers judges to judge the islands environmental crimes, even if there is a Superior Court.  Is setting a disastrous precedent, “said Carlos Zapata, Conservation Sector, Science and Education of Galapagos.

Once declared invalid, the judge lifted the arrest warrants and the seizure of the ship, and authorized their departure.

It is not the first time that judges everything thrown into contrast the combined work of the authorities.  Edwin Naula, head of PNG, said the judges in the Galapagos have shown what is a constant in the whole country, not just failure to apply, according to law. One of the most outrageous, he added, is that of Mary Fer, the judge changed the precautionary measures by releasing the 20 involved, and only two remain in the Galapagos with the obligation to appear in court weekly.  “In practice we have a process without charge, resulting in impunity and the consequent stimulus to this illegal activity.”

Judicial decisions have also raised alarm among representatives of international foundations.  Alex Cornelissen, director of Sea Shepherd, did not hide his anger over the latest court decisions, “do not help strengthen the culture of single-species conservation in the Galapagos Islands.”  Read the Sea Shepherd plea regarding Lady Justice has abandoned Galapagos

Last August, the Conservation Sector, Science and Education sent an official letter asking the Judicial Council to take action on the matter and monitor the performance of judges.  The letter has not been answered yet.

A judicial Recourse

The Conservation Sector, Science and Education submitted an amicus curiae on 26 September before the Environmental Office and the First Court of Criminal Guarantees Galapagos. This resource is part of the monitoring vessel to the case of Mary Fer I.

This resource is a form of citizen participation, which allows the company to provide specialized legal advice and relevant information about a specific case and inform the judge about environmental issues.

65 Sharks Found Aboard Boat in Galapagos

September 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Just months after the Mary Fer I was tragically caught illegally shark fishing within the Galapagos Marine Reserve, another boat the Reina del Cisne from the same home port of Manta was caught poaching in the Galapagos Islands.  When park officials inspected the boat the found 65 sharks on baord.

The Reina del Cisne was captured with 2 smaller fibrer glass 12 people on board (5 of whom were not listed on the paperwork with the port captain when departing Manta).  The Reina del Cisne and crew were taken to the island of San Cristobal for legal action.

Lady Justice Has Abandoned Galapagos

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Photo Galapagos National Park

 

From Sea Shepherd

On July 25th, Sea Shepherd reported the capture of a fishing vessel in what is the biggest case of shark killing in the history of the Galapagos National Park. We saw this as our opportunity to put almost two years of hard work in our legal project into practice and were preparing ourselves to go to court as an accusing party in defense of the massacred sharks. It was going to be historic, as there is no prior record of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) prosecuting environmental cases in the Galapagos. But, we were too optimistic as the Galapagos legal system is incapable of dealing with environmental crimes. In fact, we wonder if the local legal system is even capable of handling any crimes at all. In the 13 years of environmental regulations in the Special Law of Galapagos, not a single conviction has ever followed an environmental crime. We now know why: it is simply impossible under the present judicial conditions.

The facts of the Fer Mary 1 case:

- The Fer Mary 1 is an industrial fishing vessel, using longlines, registered in Manta, the main fisheries port of Ecuador.

- The Fer Mary 1 was detected by the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), on July 18th 2011. VMS is used by the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) to monitor vessel movement inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR).

- The GNPS sent a speedboat to intercept the vessel that was operating some 20 NM inside the GMR. This speedboat had six rangers and one navy member. They sailed under difficult sea conditions to do their job. The seas were so rough that the GNPS took a big risk.

- A large number of sharks (357) of different species, including one mako, a protected species by the Convention on Migratory Species, were found in the vessel and its dependant minor vessels. Some of these species are also listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list as either endangered or threatened. In Galapagos ALL species of sharks receive full legal protection.

- According to the Galapagos Law and the Criminal Code of Ecuador, any capture of sharks, is illegal within the GMR. Any industrial fishing, especially using longlines, is also illegal inside the GMR. – On July 19th, the environmental prosecutor of Galapagos opened an investigation on the environmental crimes of fishing within the GMR and capturing protected species against the crew of Fer Mary 1. Upon request of the prosecutor, the judge ordered the detention of all crewmembers. The GNPS also filed an accusation.

- If convicted, the crew of the Fer Mary 1 can all get up to three years imprisonment for fishing illegally and an additional three years for capturing protected species.

- On August 3rd upon request of defendant’s attorney, a judicial hearing took place. Despite the prosecutor’s formal opposition, the judge decided on Saturday August 6th to release all suspects on the condition they report to the judge in Manta, their hometown on the mainland, every eight days. This condition applies to 19 crewmembers, which have left the islands and are now enjoying freedom 982 km away from the crime scene. Only the captain and the chief engineer, have to stay in Galapagos on San Cristobal Island until the end of the preliminary investigation, which is the first stage of the criminal procedure.

- From a litigation perspective, the case has no future, as most suspects are out of town. This means that all of the risks taken by park rangers and the navy crew, implementation of expensive satellite monitoring technology, and all of the work of the environmental prosecutor and the GNPS was worth nothing to the judicial system, as suspects are now 982 km away from the Galapagos Islands. In reality, real justice is meant to respond to society and to protect it, not to abandon it.

- And yet, it gets even worse: If charged with environmental crimes, all suspects will have to come back to Galapagos for trial. This has never happened in previous cases. The Papate is a good example. In April 2010, this Ecuadorian industrial fishing vessel was also caught inside the GMR with 183 dead sharks onboard. Five times the court in Galapagos has asked the 14 defendants, who are also from Manta, to return to Galapagos for their court case. The last time only one of them complied. In order for the court to process the case, ALL defendants must be present. If the defendants fail to show up, the police have the authority to detain them and transport them to the court. This happens on the continent BUT in the case of Galapagos the question emerges: who will pay the costs of transportation from the mainland to the islands? Neither the police nor the judicial system has the budget for this. It is also not clearly regulated in the law.

- Even if suspects do return, it is already certain that the case will be nullified: in the first environmental case that ever went to trial in Galapagos, the local criminal court has declared itself not competent to address cases on environmental crimes. That means that if you want to prosecute somebody in Galapagos, you have to go to the nearest provincial court in Ecuador, some 982 kilometers away. This is unbelievable and simply unacceptable.

- Even more unacceptable is the fact that Galapagos is the only province in Ecuador without a Provincial Court of Justice. How can this all happen in such a unique place as Galapagos?

Further notes of interest regarding the Fer Mary 1 case:

- The vessel is being detained in Galapagos. History has shown that the owners will unlikely get it back (small bit of good news).

- The prosecutor has also started a case against the owner of the vessel, a positive and new strategy to push the case to its limits. However, the same applies here as with the other defendants of previous cases: if one fails to show up, none can be charged.

- The judicial system needs to be completely sanitized. Sea Shepherd Galapagos has helped achieve great improvements but as it turns out we haven’t even scraped the surface in this area. The environmental prosecutor is doing a great job but is running against the judicial wall.

- The GNPS is able to capture illegal fishermen thanks to the already existing VMS and soon with help of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that Sea Shepherd is installing. The park rangers do this under difficult sea conditions taking big risks in order to protect the GMR. It is very frustrating for the rangers to then see the case being lost due to a failing judicial system.

- The judge ordered the release of the fishermen due to humanitarian reasons. He thought it unfair to incarcerate people for a “mere” environmental infraction. But what about the terrible environmental damage that was inflicted upon this fragile ecosystem? What about breaking the law, doesn’t that count for something? Apparently in Galapagos, nature is not as important to the judicial system.

- The judge who ordered the release was removed from his position, days after he made this decision. Next steps of action to correct this unacceptable situation:

- Complete, in depth sanitation is needed of the judicial system in Galapagos. Competent judges need to be appointed who understand the value of the Galapagos’ delicate ecosystem.

- If the court in Galapagos is not competent to address cases on environmental crimes, than a provincial court should be appointed in Galapagos. – Where it is clear that the local judiciary does not understand the ecological value of sharks, at least it should be make clear to them that the economical damage to Galapagos far exceeds the profits of illegal fishermen. Some 90% of the people in Galapagos are dependent on tourism of which dive tourism is a very important part. People come to Galapagos to see sharks, not to see sharks being butchered by illegal fishermen.

- Cases need to be treated on a person-to-person basis. Instead of trying to get all crewmembers back at the same time (which has proven to be impossible), the courts should prosecute each person individually. Not only will this be a lot easier, it also prevents all cases to be delayed if only one person fails to show up. This method is being applied in other parts of Ecuador where it has been proven to work. Due to the logistical difficulty Galapagos faces, as well as the lack of a provincial court, this should be an option.

Next steps of action for Sea Shepherd Galapagos:

This unlawful shark massacre will not be forgotten, and we will make sure of it. Sharks were killed in a shark sanctuary where they receive full protection, even though the judicial system fails to understand that.

This case has become the very symbol of a failing judicial system in Galapagos. If this judiciary is ever to become what it should be, a knowledgeable and respected actor in delivering environmental justice, then urgent and full transformation is needed.

At the moment, a process of judicial transformation is underway in Ecuador. We need to show national judicial authorities just how poorly environmental justice is being delivered in Galapagos. The Fer Mary 1 case will not bring the 357 dead sharks back to life, nor does it pay justice to the hard work of all the local authorities involved, but it may just be THE case justifying the need for major, local judicial transformation.

A legal brief (amicus curiae) on the need to protect sharks will soon be filed in court. Local and national support is being asked in order to send a clear message to the judicial system on how upsetting this case has become to society.

Two years ago we succeeded in showing national authorities the need of a specialized environmental prosecutor for Galapagos, and now, we turn our efforts to the judiciary.

It is about time for Lady Justice to come back to Galapagos.

Shark fin soup: A recipe for extinction

July 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Photo courtesy of TheSeaMonster.com

As blogged earlier the Galapagos National Park detained the Fishing Boat Mary Fer I illegaly fishing off the coast of Genovesa on Monday.  The illegal fishing of sharks is not a new problem in Galapagos and we thank park officials for stopping these poachers. When the boat was inspected officials found 357 dead sharks on board.  This excellent article by Susannah Waters of the Scavanger on the importance of banning the practice of shark finning and the sale of shark fin soup.

The demand for shark fin soup has driven many shark species to the brink of extinction, and threatens to destabilise the entire marine ecosystem. While some progressive conservation steps have recently been made, tough international measures are urgently needed to protect sharks, writes Susannah Waters.

17 July 2011

“And does anyone know what species this shark is?!” the museum tour guide asks the crowd of children in a high-pitched, excited tone. A chorus of voices shrieks back an array of guesses, with the guide praising the correct answer.

“Indeed – a tiger shark!”

He then leads the boisterous group to another display further along, repeating his question.

Rounding the next corner, the guide becomes slightly agitated and glances nervously to the left. He turns and bypasses that display, moving on briskly to continue his guessing game at the next exhibit.

What the guide is so eager to avoid is a video, on continual loop, about the gruesome practice of shark finning. The graphic images of sharks being butchered alive was likely deemed too disturbing for the visiting children.

But the video, highlighting shark finning’s devastating effect on global shark populations, was undoubtedly the most important aspect of the Planet Shark – Predator or Prey exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum earlier this year.

The price of fins

Shark finning – the process of cutting off a shark’s fins for commercial use – is driven by a multi-billion dollar a year industry servicing the shark fin soup market.

The principal market for shark fins is Hong Kong, which imported 10 million kilograms (10,000 tonnes) of shark fin in 2008, and encompasses up to 80% of the entire trade. The majority of fins transited through Hong Kong wind up on the Chinese mainland, where shark fin soup is afforded a high status.

Demand for the soup has escalated in recent years, and has accordingly spearheaded a steep drop in shark populations.

Tooni Mahto of the Australian Marine Conservation Society has a special interest in shark conservation. The Marine Campaigns Officer affirms that shark finning’s repercussions on shark species are enormous.

“Shark finning and the targeted fishing of sharks around the world pose the greatest threat to the continued existence of sharks in our global oceans”, Mahto tells The Scavenger.

Research indicates that worldwide shark numbers have plummeted by as much as 90% in recent decades, largely attributable to shark finning. It is estimated that an astonishing 100 million sharks are killed specifically for their fins each year.

Mahto pinpoints the “immense” financial incentives to obtain shark fins as central to the problem.

A single bowl of shark fin soup can fetch as much as US$400. Animals Asia claims that a large whale shark pectoral fin can sell for US$15,000 in China.

This relentless quest for profit has placed sharks in unprecedented danger. In fact, their dwindling numbers are providing further enticement for the industry to continue its trade.

Animals Asia explains: “As sharks become scarce, the value of their fins increases, as does the incentive for fishermen to search out remaining populations”. Sharks are therefore entrapped in a vicious cycle of over-exploitation.

Presently, around 30% of all shark species are threatened with extinction.

According to Claudette Rechtorik, Research & Education Manager at the Sydney Aquarium Conservation Fund, many species are being fished at a rate faster than their reproductive capacities can replenish numbers.

“Given the finite number of sharks in the system and the number of mortalities occurring annually, based on simple maths, shark populations will continue to decline”, Rechtorik tells The Scavenger.

The scalloped hammerhead is just one species classified as endangered in recent years, due to the demand for shark fin soup. A decrease in numbers of 98% in some regions has placed this species at great risk of extinction.

Butchered alive and abandoned at sea

A two-metre shark is hauled on board a wooden boat. She lashes about in fear as two sets of human hands attempt to steady her. A third pair of hands, wielding a knife, moves in toward the panicking shark.

As the long blade severs the dorsal fin from her writhing body, pure terror inhabits her dark eyes. Within seconds, the same menacing hands dismember her tail and pectoral fins. The group then rolls the terrified and bleeding shark back into the ocean, where she sinks to an unknown fate.

This grisly technique of removing a shark’s fins places prime value on retention of the fins, while the remainder of the shark is generally dismissed as surplus. Shark meat doesn’t generate returns in the same realm as fins, so after enduring the violent removal of their fins, the disabled sharks are typically tossed back into the sea to suffer an excruciating death.

Conservation group Sea Shepherd reveals that many sharks ultimately bleed to death, or are attacked by other sharks or fish. Others drown, as their inability to swim results in a lack of oxygen circulating through their gills.

Every day, hundreds of fishing vessels roll into dock, strewn with the souvenirs of shark slaughter on deck – evidence of a vicious war being waged against sharks, away from public view and in the name of profit.

Legally lame

Shark protection is undermined by an absence of laws preventing fishing in the open seas. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of individual nations to enact legislation governing their own territorial waters, and many countries do not have such regulations in place.

Nevertheless, national regulations and laws are often not decisive enough to protect sharks adequately. The existence of legal loopholes can often enable fishing vessels to simply bypass shark finning restrictions.

Great-White-SharkEarlier this year the US government ratified the Shark Conservation Act, effectively closing a loophole which had facilitated the purchase of shark fins on the open sea by US vessels for years. The fins were on-sold at an inflated price on US markets.

Shark finning has been illegal in US waters since 2000. However, as it is stipulated that fins can be transported back to port provided they are accompanied by their associated carcass, fins are still entering the market.

Australia also has a somewhat ambiguous position on the issue of shark finning. While the finning and disposal of sharks at sea is illegal – owing in part to a campaign by the Australian Marine Conservation Society – it is still permitted to utilise a shark’s fins, provided the entire shark is retained by the fishing vessel.

Hundreds of thousands of sharks are fished legally in Australian waters every year. The lucrative fins are frequently the primary target, and the carcass is generally appropriated for less profitable flake products.

Disappointingly, this means that Australia is still feeding the supply chain of the trade, and is doing very little to discourage the slaughter of sharks for their fins. Mahto reveals that in 2007, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service recorded the export of 165 tonnes (165,000 kg) of shark fin from Australia.

Furthermore, Australia imports approximately 10,000 kilograms of dried shark fin per year, which is tantamount to 26,000 sharks. Mahto says that Australia is sadly lagging behind precedents being set by other nations, and that the best hope for sharks in the region is for the trade of all shark products to be outlawed.

Globally, illegal fishing is rampant, and the preservation of marine protected areas can be flouted with full knowledge of the authorities.

This was highlighted in the 2006 documentary Sharkwater. It uncovered clandestine shark finning operations functioning with government collusion in Costa Rican marine reserves, where sharks are ostensibly protected.

An International Plan of Action for sharks was established by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in 1999. However, as adhering to the Plan is voluntary, the UN has no authority over non-compliance. Moreover, the Plan’s recommendations do not explicitly state that shark fins should not be acquired – only that sharks not be fished purely for their fins.

Global initiatives

Positively, Mahto believes that a “groundswell of international support” for sharks is beginning to gain traction. She applauds what she deems “incredibly positive international shark conservation steps” taken by some countries in recent months.

She cites the recent announcement of a permanent shark sanctuary in Honduras, which will uphold a moratorium on the commercial fishing of sharks established there last year.

Other international steps indicate that shark protection is creeping onto the global agenda.

Last year, the Maldives extended a national embargo on shark hunting, banning shark fishing in all its waters plus all shark product exports. In a joint report, TRAFFIC and the Pew Environment Group claim the decision was based on “evidence that sharks are more valuable as a tourist attraction than as exported meat and fins”.

The Malaysian state of Sabah, which has seen drastic reductions in shark species, is currently preparing legislation for a ban on shark finning.

A bill adopted by Hawaii which bans all trade and the possession of shark fins will come into effect this July.  Similar bills have recently passed, or are pending, in several US states.

But are these efforts enough? Are they too little, too late?

Rechtorik says that while many organisations and some governments are working hard on shark protection, “when working with cultural norms it can take time. Unfortunately we don’t have that time”. She believes that the need for action by the international community is “urgent”.

Mahto agrees that “global protection” for sharks from fishing and finning is desperately needed.

Thus, while individual legislation within countries is commendable, it is clear that piecemeal measures are grossly insufficient to rectify a problem of this scale. In the absence of any legally binding and enforceable international agreements protecting sharks, they remain vulnerable and largely left at the mercy of a ruthless industry with a lot to gain.

International cooperation, in the form of a mandatory agreement, is possibly the last hope for the continued survival of sharks.

The future

In what have been described as “shocking” findings, a high-level workshop of marine scientists, convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), recently analysed the current state of the world’s oceans. Their assessment was grim.

IPSO claims the multi-country panel produced “a grave assessment of current threats – and a stark conclusion about future risks to marine and human life if the current trajectory of damage continues: that the world’s ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”.

Scientists have long warned that if sharks disappeared from our oceans, there would be a snowball effect on other marine species and the entire ocean environment. And while there appears to be consensus that the impact on marine ecosystems would be catastrophic, we are yet to fully grasp the magnitude of the crisis.

According to Rechtorik, the over-exploitation of sharks is causing “untold ecological damage”. She says that there is already evidence of what occurs when “top predators” such as sharks disappear from the environment.

One significant outcome is that “prey species proliferate and ecosystem function becomes unbalanced”. Rechtorik also asserts that damage to habitat is a natural consequence of this.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society contends that marine ecosystems risk total collapse without sharks. Mahto remarks that this is because sharks bring an “element of stability” due to their “incredibly important role” in the marine environment. Consequently, she believes that a worldwide recognition of the value of sharks is crucial to the health of the ocean.

“If sharks species are to go extinct in our lifetime, this will not only have a catastrophic effect on marine health, but will also be a tragic testament to the way in which we interact with our wild blue planet”, Mahto says.

Sharks are an ancient species which has survived for at least 400 million years through several global mass extinctions – a demonstration of their resilience.

With 100 million sharks being brutally killed for soup each year, Mahto’s words are particularly pertinent. Will we allow them to disappear on our watch?

Susannah Waters is associate editor at The Scavenger.

Shark Fishing

July 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

(AP Photo/Patricio Realpe) July 5 Puerrto Lopez Ecuador
 
In 2007 President Rafael Correa overturned the law prohibiting the sale of shark fins and shark meat making it legal for fishermen who “accidently” catch sharks while conducting other fishing activity.  As a result thousands of sharks are killed each year and sold to Hong Kong or other parts of Asia to be used in tasteless soup, jewlery, tourist souveniers and phony powders and capsals.   This week another hammehead was killed off Puerto Lopez and was photographed as it the fishemen cut off is fins for sale.
 
According to Sea Shepherd there are 100 million sharks killed around the world each year.  90% of the world’s shark population is depleted making it of vital importance to stop these barbaric practices and to change the laws in order to protect these amazing creatures.  In the Galapagos where the animals have evolved in order to survive, sharks are one of the few animals that has never had to evolve because they are perfect just the way they are.  They are at the predators of the sea playing an important role in the balance of marinelife.

smuggling of shark fins from Galapagos

While this law does not apply to Asia the illegal fishing of Sharks and Shark Fins continues in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.  In 2007 Sea Shepherd siezed 19,000 shark fins in Galapagos as part of an undercover opteration. 

According to Jon Bowmaster “Financed by mafias based in mainland Ecuador, fins are taken – hacked off, the useless carcasses tossed overboard – and sent abroad for shark fin soup. Japanese are the biggest culprits though there are restaurants as far away as Norway and Germany, which sell the soup as well. The sad reality is that not only is it a complete waste of the shark but the fins have absolutely no taste, no nutritional value. It’s all about the show. If you can afford shark fin soup – at a business meeting, wedding, anniversary – it means you’ve got the bucks to spend on a frivolity.”

Diving with sharks is the #1 reason divers come to the Galapagos Islands.  The experience of swimming with hammerheads and whale sharks is truly incredible.  Sharks need to be protected. We call upon the President of Ecuador to reconsider this law and work with international organizations to teach the local fisherman fishing techniques which reduce shark morality.

If you would like to get involved and help protect the world’s shark population you can contact Sea Shepherd, Wildaid or other organization dedicated to protecting sharks.  To raise awareness of the need to protect the world’s sharks send a shark trust ecards to your friends

 

Costa Rica fishing boat stopped in Galapagos

August 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

Galapagos Shark

The Ecuadorian navy has seized  the Rosa I Costa Rican fishing boat with a cargo of shark meat in the Galapagos Islands.  The Rosa I was stopped about 104 nautical miles northwest of Darwin Island with 75 pieces of shark meat aboard according to Ecuavisa Television.

The waters surrounding the islands is the protected Galapagos Marine Reserve established to protect the 3000 species of marine plants and animals in the region.  Natives of the Galapagos are granted special permits to fish on a small scale in these waters from the Galapagos Marine Reserve.   In order to protect the environment the waters surrounding the Galapagos are closed to both international fisherman as well as fisherman from the continent.

The fishing boat, which was intercepted by a coast guard cutter, had five crewmen and a dog aboard.  Currently navy investigators are trying to determine whether the sharks were caught inside or outside the islands, which are a protected marine reserve.

The sharks were caught in international waters, but the captain stated the vessel was forced to enter the Galapagos due to an emergency with the main engine.

The Rosa I and its crew earn a living from shark fishing, which is allowed in Costa Rica, Bonilla said, adding that each piece of shark meat brings between $60 and $70 locally.

This is the fourth Costa Rican boat stopped for illegal fishing in the Galapagos this year.

Learn more about what you can do to help stop Shark Finning.

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