Magazine article E Magazine

Saving Sharks in Baja California?

Magazine article E Magazine

Saving Sharks in Baja California?

Article excerpt

In El Portugues, a small fishing camp in Mexico's Baja California Sur, moustachioed fishermen with tobacco-colored skin glide to shore in 21-foot panga boats and unload their modest catch of small sharks and devil rays. It seems innocuous enough, given that most of the sharks, skates and rays (a class known as elasmobranches) are being harvested via small-scale, non-industrialized methods. But according to a two-year survey led by Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research in Sarasota, Florida, there are 147 fishing camps along the Gulf of California supporting 4,000 to 5,500 active pangas targeting elasmobranches.

The result: 20 million sharks and their relatives are killed in the Gulf of California each year. Worldwide, about 100 million sharks and rays are killed annually.

Eighty percent of the sharks caught in the Gulf region are immature juveniles, and many others are pregnant females. This has decimated the population, since sharks grow slowly and have very few offspring. In turn, traditional fishermen are threatening their own livelihoods.

In response, the conservation group Iemanya Oceanica has launched a grassroots program, Pescadores Y Tiburones ("Fishermen and Sharks"), from its La Paz field base. The program seeks to make allies of the panga fishermen by hiring them for research excursions to help catch, tag, sample and release sharks and manta rays so they "feel a sense of ownership in their communities and get involved" says Laleh Mohajerani, Iemanya's executive director. …

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