Shifting Baselines

I am the lead author of a new study In Hot Soup: Sharks Captured in Ecuador’s Waters out in the journal Environmental Sciences. We reconstructed the shark landings for Ecuador from 1976 to 2004 and demonstrated that Ecuador captures more than 3.5 times the number of sharks they officially report catching–or about half a million sharks each year.

The shark fishery of Ecuador is one of many around the world that feeds the growing Asian demand for sharkfin soup. Fishermen catch more than 40 different shark species and one need only visit a few of the fishing ports along the coast to see shark finning in full effect (such as these juvenile hammerheads captured off Santa Rosa).

i-f5bbac26c6aa1a31b733b3d1331e56aa-Fig_Hammerheads.jpg

i-f49ef0bfce9cff3f443bd4d8d76e265f-Fig_finnedhammers.jpg

Yet, until the 2005 update of fisheries data, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) did not report elasmobranches for Ecuador, indicating that the Ecuadorian government failed to report on these species, probably in part due to the scandalous nature of the shark fin industry.

Our study reconstructed Ecuador’s mainland shark landings from the bottom up from 1979 to 2004 using gray literature and shark fin export data. Over this period, shark landings for the Ecuadorian mainland were an estimated 7000 tonnes per year, or nearly half a million sharks. Reconstructed shark landings were about 3.6 times greater than those retroactively reported by FAO from 1991 to 2004.

The discrepancies in data require the urgent implementation of the measures Ecuadorian law mandates: eliminating targeted shark captures, finning, and transshipments, as well as adoption of measures to minimize incidental capture. Most of all, a serious shark landings monitoring system and effective chain of custody standards are needed.

Comments

  1. #1 K. Stump
    December 21, 2008

    Not having read your paper on Ecuador’s shark fishery, I don’t know the details of the fishery. But I’m betting it is one of those data-poor small-scale fisheries that you and Pauly characterized as “our best option for sustainable use of fisheries resources” in a recent Conservation Biology paper (Funding Priorities: Big Barries to Small-Scale Fisheries). I share your frustration with the bias of subsidies and certification programs toward large-scale fisheries, and it seems intuitive that small-scale fisheries are more sustainable than large-scale ones, but I struggle to reconcile the examples such as this shark fishery in Ecuador with the idea that smaller is better for the fish.

  2. #2 Geoff
    December 28, 2008

    I recently saw a program on squid coming more to the surface and spreading northwards along the South and North American coasts. Could it be that the squid are moving up from the lower depths because the sharks just aren’t there any more in the upper waters?

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  11. #11 bedava chat
    June 30, 2009

    Not having read your paper on Ecuador’s shark fishery, I don’t know the details of the fishery. But I’m betting it is one of those data-poor small-scale fisheries that you and Pauly characterized as “our besti top model

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  13. #13 neon
    July 15, 2009

    Could it be that the squid are moving up from the lower depths because the sharks just aren’t there any more in the upper waters.those retroactively reported ..bad.

  14. #14 chat
    July 19, 2009

    ecently saw a program on squid coming more to the surface and spreading northwards along the South and North American coasts. Could it be that the squid are moving up from menitoree senaa

  15. #15 sikiş
    July 20, 2009

    recently saw a program on squid coming more to the surface and spreading northwards along the South and North American coasts. Could it be that the squid are moving up from menitoree senaa

  16. #16 Aşk Büyüsü
    August 3, 2009

    Not having read your paper on Ecuador’s shark fishery, I don’t know the details of the fishery. But I’m betting it is one of those data-poor small-scale fisheries that you and Pauly characterized as “our besti top model

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    August 25, 2009

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  18. #18 Jonas
    August 25, 2009

    Shark finning will remove the top predator from teh ocean’s food chain over the next few years unless Asia stops this cruel and senseless slaughtering. That in turn would lead to lower forms like algae to grow uncontrollably and your entire fisheries would go down the drain.

    INFORM YOURSELF AND STOP EATING A TASTELESS PIECE OF “SEAFOOD” that leaves sharks in agonizing pain. You would not do this to Dolphins (oh wait, the Japanese do!).

    http://www.shark-fin-soup.asia

  19. #19 deeper voice
    August 27, 2009

    I struggle to reconcile the examples such as this shark fishery in Ecuador with the idea that smaller is better for the fish.

  20. #20 sohbet
    October 1, 2009

    I recently saw a program on squid coming more to the surface and spreading northwards along the South and North American coasts. Could it be that the squid are moving up from the lower depths because the sharks just aren’t there any more in the upper waters?

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    October 29, 2009

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    October 29, 2009

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    November 21, 2009

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  28. #28 dış cephe
    November 30, 2009

    Not having read your paper on Ecuador’s shark fishery, I don’t know the details of the fishery.

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    December 8, 2009

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    March 9, 2010

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    March 27, 2010

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  55. #55 reverse phone detective
    August 19, 2010

    The shark fishery of Ecuador is one of many around the world that feeds the growing Asian demand for sharkfin soup. Fishermen catch more than 40 different shark species and one need only visit a few of the fishing ports along the coast to see shark finning in full effect (such as these juvenile hammerheads captured off Santa Rosa).

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    October 29, 2010

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  69. #69 Crawford
    July 28, 2011

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