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
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
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.
Andy is in the process of editing a compelling
documentary about the Baja expedition.