Manta, Ecuador – Shark fishing is illegal in Ecuador but a loophole allows fisherman to legally sell sharks that end up in their nets. The law doesn’t define a distinction between landings that are accidental or intentional, which generally means that sharks are plentiful among the morning catch fisherman unload on beaches throughout the coast.[NOTE: I posted a longer more detailed update on Oct 21, 2014 on the finning situation in Ecuador, including the insights, thoughts and concerns of experts working there on the ground. ]
Below is a quick slideshow of photos taken this morning on Tarqui Beach here in Manta. As you’ll see the majority of the fish are sharks, caught, intentionally or not, primarily with the valuable fin in mind, to feed Asia’s insatiable appetite for shark fin soup. Not surprisingly, the number of sharks landed has increased dramatically since the loophole went into effect in 2007. Walking along the beach with a camera in hand, I wasn’t made to feel excessively welcome, so I didn’t linger too long.
Similarly a few days ago in Puerto Lopez, a small fishing community a few hours south of here, I saw dozens of piles of hammerheads in their morning fish market, many of them juveniles. I’ll post pics of some of those shortly.
Intentional finning –a brutal practice in which fins are hacked from sharks and their live bodies thrown back into oceans– is banned by many countries but has left many species on the brink of extinction.