What a marine massacre looks like

Yesterday I led a team of eight scientists and students from UNCUSFQ and the Galapagos Science Center that documented the catch aboard a vessel caught illegally long lining in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. We worked alongside a great team from the Galapagos National Park and were also assisted by the Ecuadorian Coast Guard.  We identified, sexed, and measured every individual (there turned out to be 379 sharks, not 357 as reported earlier). We also took samples for genetic and demographic analysis (very little is known about the biology of some of these species). It took 10 hours and was grueling and very dangerous work. (There were lots of knives, hooks, and other sharp objects around, the sharks are very heavy and the deck of the ship was extremely slippery.) Beyond that, it was one of the most depressing and intense days of my life. It felt like we were unearthing a mass grave in a war zone. The bodies of the sharks were literally coming out of a dark hold beneath the deck as if they were being unearthed. We are all physically and emotionally toast today, so I thought I should start describing it all with a slide show (note, this is graphic and disturbing). I will post a lot more detail soon, including information on the broader context of shark fishing here and elsewhere.

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Photos can be used for non-commerical purposes with credit (John Bruno). Email me if you need a higher quality image.

19 Responses to “What a marine massacre looks like”

  1. Linda says:

    My heart goes out to all the members of the Bruno team who were involved in working through the horrific task of trying to make a positive out of this horrendous massacre. I understand the team gave great humane respect to these magnificent creatures on a one to one basis as scientific data was collected from each individual. This will be a life altering event for everyone of you and I am sure the sights, sounds and smell will remain with each of you for a very long time. Many thanks for the courage, determination and relentless effort to educate all of us on the importance and ecological role every creature has on the planet , as well as the role they play with the quality of life humans enjoy. Let us truly hope your efforts today will help to end this practice (and others like it) from our future. What a very sad chapter in our lives as members of Planet Earth. Let us hope the strong stand taken for this one (of thousands) incident will begin to become a deterrent to others.

  2. Anthony Hewitt says:

    Thanks for doing what you’re doing.

  3. Mimi says:

    It is very difficult to understand why anyone could do such a horrible thing. It’s great these people have been stopped. Thanks for all you do!

  4. Lauren says:

    Linda has already put most of my thoughts into words, but I still want to add my weight to this. What you did, and continue to do, makes ME want to keep fighting for positive change. Thank you for being brave, for being an inspiration, and for showing the world what kind of evil is being perpetuated.

    I do hope that the data collected goes a long way to protecting future generations of marine species, as well as towards educating the next generation of scientists.

  5. Sue says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for people like you. I wish I could say something to strengthen you emotionally for the toll it’s taken on your spirit but you’re doing a great thing for humanity, and the shark species, by exposing this travesty. What you’re doing helps me to believe that there can be change so that this, and other atrocities, never happen again. Thank you all.

  6. David Moreno says:

    Hi, I was lucky enough to study at GAIAS for a semester, and sharks being my main area of interest, I had a close look at shark fishing in Ecuador both inside or outside the national park. I know what its like to work in these conditions and see the devastation we are capable of. I was wondering was anyone prosecuted for this particular case?

    • John Bruno says:

      Hi David, Yes all 30 fisherman will be prosecuted. There in jail for 30 days, then after the trial the judge will assign a sentence. The prosecutor was onboard all day when we worked collecting evidence. He, the park, the navy and the government seem to be taking this very seriously. Ill keep you posted on the outcome of the case.

      • Were the boat owners on board, too? If not I hope they are being prosecuted as well.

        Also, as sickening as this is, it is not all fishers — enlisting small scale, local artisinal fishers in education and conservation efforts is key to successful management.

  7. Mike says:

    Isn’t Sea Shepherd meant to be protecting the sharks of the Galapagos?

    This is why I donated to them in the first place what the hell is going on?

    http://www.seashepherd.org/galapagos

  8. Mummy Ninja says:

    Poor sharks. :( I hope I can save them.. :(

  9. [...] from July 24 by MSNBC, and documented first-hand by my colleague John Bruno over at SeaMonster (What a marine massacre looks like), of the capture of a fishing vessel that was found illegally fishing sharks within the protected [...]

  10. Whaler says:

    Great story, but have you really made an impact? Until the punishment for crimes like this are enforced and increased, it will continue. Confiscation of the boat, equipment and gear and mandatory prison time as a start. When that happens people will think twice about doing it. Until then, plan on reading more stories like this.

  11. Chris Davis says:

    It makes me want to vomit
    I really don’t know what else to say
    As a human, a member of the species responsable for this, I can only hang my head in shame.
    I cry as I write this.

  12. [...] Islands of Ecuador this summer, he was summoned by local authorities to help identify sharks on a boat they had seized with more than 350 carcasses, fins already partly detached. Ecuadorean law also bans finning at [...]

  13. Penny Miller says:

    We are trying to make a difference in the middle of the US. Petition is circulating around the world…posted in magazines and flying around the internet. Please sign and share.

    ACTION – BAN THE FIN: “A St. Louis, Missouri, grocery store chain, Dierbergs, sells thresher shark steaks as a ‘less expensive seafood option’, despite the depleted status of thresher shark populations and vulnerability to overfishing.” Please SIGN AND SHARE to end the commercial sale of thresher shark meat. Thank you! [You can read more about this issue at: http://www.sharksavers.org/en/blogs/793-ban-the-fin-action-in-st-louis-to-stop-shark-products-at-dierbergs.html

  14. JOHN says:

    well, this is a shame, but we have to have in mind, shark meat is part of the diet of a lot of countries. There must be a international regulation, to respect size of the shark and strains, which could be in danger. I am in totally disagreement of killing them, but we as first countries are more guilty than those poor countries, our big companies, went to those countries without laws, to promote the killing of sharks and other species. Europe and USA are the main guiltiest of this killing and others like deep shark, which are used mainly for their shark liver oil, for stupid medicines and the fuckking makes up that women use. Read about Squalene and you will see!!! WE ARE THE MAIN CONSUMERS. Spain eats a lot of shark, mainly in the south of Spain, when tourist visit spain they eat a lot, they call it here CAZON, most fish and chips in England eat shark meat too, so what we need a super regulation about fishing them. Shark Fin is a sub-product, same as the cartilage and the skin(high priced for luxury components like handbags, belts,etc….) So think about it. We are the main crap.

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