From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published October 20, 2011 10:15 AM

Massive Shark Slaughter Reported in Columbian Waters

Columbian government officials have reported that as many as 2,000 sharks have been killed in a single incident for their fins. The slaughter occurred in the Malpelo Wildlife Sanctuary, a remote 8,570 square kilometer area of the ocean off Columbia's Pacific coast. The sharks were found at the bottom of the sea, all dead, and all with their fins cut off. They were discovered by a team of shark researchers around the small island of Malpelo, 500 kilometers west of the mainland.

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The researchers reportedly witnessed 10 fishing trawlers near Malpelo all with the Costa Rican flag. The research team sent divers down to investigate and found the shark carcasses, and estimated 200 sharks per boat for a total of 2,000 sharks. Shark species found included hammerhead, Galapagos, and silky sharks.

According to Sandra Bessudo, Columbia's top environmental advisor and a leading advocate for marine conserviation, "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. When the divers dove, they started finding a large number of animals without their fins. They didn't see any alive."

Malpelo does contain a small Columbian naval station, but no naval ships were in the area during the incident. The tiny square mile chunk of rock is located 36 hours away from the mainland by sea. The navy sent out a ship to the area once the news was reported, and seized an Ecuadorian fishing vessel with a 300 kilogram illegal catch that included sharks and other protected species.

Costa Rica vowed to cooperate with the Columbian government in stopping illegal fishing activities by vessels under its flag. The Costa Rican foreign minister stated they would prosecute any Costa Rican flagged ships that may have been involved in the incident.

Unfortunately, there exists a great motivation for fishermen who break the law to capture sharks and kill them for their fins. The shark fin is an extremely hot commodity, particularly in China where it is considered a delicacy. A Hong Kong restaurant will charge $56 USD for single bowl of shark fin soup. As Chinese cities have become more affluent, the demand for shark fin soup has greatly increased.

The practice of shark finning has led to a global slaughter of sharks. As the ocean's top predator, their loss is radically altering marine ecosystems. Therefore, many countries have banned this practice. However, to stop the illegal activities from occurring, demand in China must be reduced.

For more information: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1216

Image credit: http://www.sdnhm.org/kids/sharks/shore-to-sea/hammerhead.html

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