Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shark Massacre in the GNP

Dead sharks found on illegal fishing vessel in GNP

John Bruno, Associate Professor at UNC Chapel Hill, marine ecologist and author of a fantastic blog called SeaMonster, wrote about the discovery of a shark massacre on July 20th. "A rundown small ship from Manta, on the central coast of Ecuador, was apprehended by the Galapagos National Park and the Ecuadorian Navy. According to the GNP, 357 sharks were found on the ship: 286 bigeye thresher, 22 blue sharks, 40 Galapagos sharks, 6 hammerhead sharks, 2 tiger sharks, and 1 mako shark." In an update today he writes about his team's efforts to quantify the illegal catch (there were actually 380 sharks):

"Yesterday I led a team of 8 scientists and students from UNC, USFQ and the Galapagos Science Center to quantify the illegal catch. We worked along side a great team from the Galapagos National Park and were assisted by the Ecuadorian Coast Guard.

We identified (there were 7 shark species), sexed, and measured every individual (there turned out to be 380 sharks). We also took samples for genetic and demographic analysis (very little is known about the biology of some of these species). It took 10 hours and was grueling and very dangerous work. (There were lots of knives, hooks, and other sharp objects around, the sharks are very heavy and the deck of the ship was extremely slippery.)

Beyond that, it was one of the most depressing and intense days of my life. It felt like we were unearthing and documenting a mass grave in a war zone. We are all physically and emotionally toast today, so I thought I should start describing it all with a slide show (note, this is graphic and disturbing). I will post a lot more detail soon, including information on the broader context of shark fishing here and elsewhere."

Visit the SeaMonster blog to view photos that convey the magnitude of this crime against marine life.

Meanwhile, here in Massachusetts, another Monster Shark Tournament was held yesterday off Martha's Vineyard. Standout catches were a 365-pound thresher shark and a 538-pound thresher shark, hoisted up to be displayed like macabre trophies for all to see. Sadly, this too, is a massacre, and the fact that it is legally sanctioned only makes it more horrifying.

I wholeheartedly agree with the Humane Society of the United States, which opposes the event because of the shark killing it promotes. Sharon Young, HSUS marine issues field director said, "There's a constant litany of conservation issues with sharks. We desperately need conservation measures for large sharks."

And we need them NOW.

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