DRAWING ATTENTION TO THE PLIGHT OF HIGHLY VULNERABLE SHARK AND RAY SPECIES WORLDWIDE

 

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 BAJA EXPEDITION

Sept 1, 2012. PIP Expedition to Pacific Baja has returned with images and footage of many shark and ray species drowning in gill nets.

PIP Photographer Andy Murch traveled out to sea with gill-netters and shark long-liners and returned with provocative images of soupfin, brown smoothhound, swell sharks and countless bat rays and banded guitarfishes that were killed after becoming irreparably entangled in nets intended for California Halibut. More than fifty tangled rays were recorded struggling in one net alone.

After negotiating a price with the fishermen, Andy was able to release many of the most viable rays that would have been brought ashore. None of the sharks were landed alive.

The sharks and rays are unintentional bycatch that fetch such little value in local markets that they are not lucrative enough to pay for gasoline for the gill fishermen's small boats. One day at sea with the gill netters revealed that there is an extremely disproportionate amount of sharks and rays being caught as bycatch compared to targeted species. Only one California halibut was landed during one day at sea.

The most common shark landed was the soupfin shark Galeorhinus galeus. Soupfins are listed as globally vulnerable by the IUCN after intense fishing pressure drove this once abundant shark into a depleted state.

 

Andy also accompanied long-liners targeting pelagic sharks. Two blue sharks were recovered during an entire day of long-lining. One of the sharks was killed by the fishermen but Andy was able to purchase the other (a 1.2m male) for the paltry sum of $4.00. Shark meat only fetches around $0.50 per kg in local markets so the business of catching sharks hinges on the lucrative exportation of shark fins. Removing the demand for fins and imposing restrictions on the international trade in fins will be instrumental in shutting down the shark fishing industry in the eastern Pacific.

 

Watch this compelling documentary about the Predators in Peril Expedition to film the unacceptable shark and ray bycatch being needlessly killed in Mexican gill nets.