Monday, October 17, 2011

Ecocide in the Seas

Sharks slaughtered for their fins. 
The other day a group of Russian scuba divers dove into the water Colombia's Malpelo Island, off of its Pacific coast, to watch sharks.

Instead, the divers witnessed a horror scene: hundreds of dead or dying sharks lying on the sea floor with their fins chopped off. The animals had been massacred for the market for shark fin soup in China, where a kilo of dried fins can bring hundreds of dollars.

Apparently, while a Colombian coast guard ship was in drydock for repair, boats from Costa Rica snuck into Colombian waters and devastated the shark population around Malpelo Island, which is a national marine reserve.

Ironically, Costa Rica is famous as a natural playground. Colombian and Costa Rican authorities are now pursuing the illegal fishermen. But catching a few ships will help little against this massacre on the world's high seas, where no government has control.

Counting shark fins. 
Globally, some 73 million sharks are killed every year, many of them just for their fins. And that's driving many shark species toward extinction. In contrast to sharks' bad public image, they in reality attack few people and are crucial for supporting marine ecosystems. For example, in some places the elimination of sharks allows smaller fish to overpopulate and devastate shellfish populations.

Colombia has relatively strong laws against finning. But laws are one thing and the reality on the open sea is another: factory fishing boats can catch, kill and butcher hundreds of sharks in a day, dump the corpses back into the sea and then even transfer the fins to another ship.

Colombia is not innocent in this holocaust. I've seen shark fin soup on menus in Bogotá Chinese restaurants, altho it is possible that these were harvested 'sustainably' when the shark was fished for its meat.

More info at Shark Angels:

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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