Colombian environmental authorities have reported a huge shark massacre in the Malpelo wildlife sanctuary in Colombia’s Pacific waters, where as many as 2,000 hammerhead, Galapagos and silky sharks may have been slaughtered for their fins.
From The Guardian:
“I received a report, which is really unbelievable, from one of the divers who came from Russia to observe the large concentrations of sharks in Malpelo. They saw a large number of fishing trawlers entering the zone illegally,” said Sandra Bessudo, the Colombian president’s top adviser on environmental issues said. The divers counted a total of 10 fishing boats, which all were flying the Costa Rican flag.
“When the divers dove, they started finding a large number of animals without their fins. They didn’t see any alive,” she said. One of the divers provided a video that shows the finless bodies of dead sharks on the ocean floor.
Calculating an average of 200 sharks per boat, “our estimates are that as many as 2,000 sharks may have been killed,” Bessudo said.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The sanctuary covers 8,570 square kilometres of marine environment that provides a habitat for threatened marine species, and in particular sharks. In 2006 Unesco included the park on its list of World Heritage sites.
Once the report of the finnings were made public, the navy dispatched a ship to the area and on Sunday reported the seizure of an Ecuadorian fishing boat, caught with an illegal catch of 300kg, including sharks and other species.
At the same time, Colombia’s foreign ministry took up the issue with the Costa Rican government, which vowed to co-operate to help stop the practice by ships registered under its flag.
Costa Rica Condemns Finning
In a communique, the Costa Rican foreign ministry said it “energetically condemns” the reported finning and said it would prosecute if the participation of Costa Rican flagged ships were involved. At least three of the ships were identified by their names: the Marco Antonio, the Jefferson and the Papante.
The Colombian shark massacre is especially shocking as it comes just as I wrote about the sweeping U.S. West Coast ban on the trade of shark fins. It’s a reminder that while we have made a lot of progress for sharks over the past few years, they are still being killed for their fins in appalling numbers.
Global Shark Movement At A Critical Juncture
It’s also a reminder that the global shark conservation movement is at a critical juncture. An increasing number of nations are recognizing the need to protect the ocean’s top predators. Chile passed a national ban on shark finning this summer, and more recently, Mexico and the Marshall Islands have announced plans for new shark protections. More governments are realizing the value of sharks to the health of their oceans and economies.
It’s encouraging to see the tide rising on global shark conservation, but it’s also important to note the role of illegal fishing in this tragic incident. Marine sanctuaries are wonderful places, but enforcement is key to keep out the illegal fishermen who aim to capitalize on the wealth of fish and sharks that make these areas so special.
We need increased protections for sharks, and we need to curb illegal fishing.
Photo Credit:Latin Tour