Sharks are friends, not food


A beautiful Galapagos shark cruises near Kicker Rock, close to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. I sound like a broken record but: Most if not all sharks are under threat from over fishing. I know I’ve eaten shark previously — even claimed it to be my favorite meat — but I will never again (even if I stop being vegetarian).

Sharks are too often apex predators or even keystone species. And they’re also natural art, highly adapted and evolved. They’re one of the oldest living predators on the planet.

Even catch-and-release sport fishing can be severely harmful to the great animals, particularly when pulled from depths. They can suffer barotrauma from pressure changes and thermo-regulation problems from being removed from cold water. One scientist I met in the Galapagos specifically stressed that often catch-and-release fishing of large, deep-water species leads to high mortality rates.

Please, don’t fish or eat them and don’t encourage others.

Lone shark

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White tip out for a swim

Shark food

A prowling whitetip reef shark out for swim (and maybe a meal) off North Seymour in the Galapagos Islands. Several of these guys were visible on a dive one afternoon. They typically spend their daytime hours resting on shady bottoms or in caves (see below). Most hunting is then done at night.

Nap time

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Prowling for a meal

On the hunt

A Galapagos shark out for a meal. The water quality and visibility was less than stellar, hence the grain when this photo was leveled in production. These guys are no real threat to humans, but at close to two meters long, they still have a commanding presence from 15 feet away.

Off the coast of North Seymour, in the Galapagos.

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Order the daily bycatch? Maybe you’re eating manta ray or shark

Rays accidentally caught, likely to be sold as trash

Many average restaurants in coastal Ecuador offer a fixed menu of fish dishes: pescado ceviche, pescado tortilla, pescado spaghetti, etc. What they mostly likely can’t tell you is what type of “pescado” you’re actually eating.

That’s because they might very well be using bycatch, the incidental catch of fish other than a targeted species. If a fishermen is angling for snapper or grouper, he is probably also pulling up loads of other species — from sharks to rays to sea turtles.

Bycatch is particularly bad with shrimp, where one pound of the prawns costs the lives of as much as 20 pounds of other fish.

At least the fishermen are trying to sell the bycatch and the local economy absorbs some of it. Restaurants and residents purchase bycatch sometimes as trash fish, to grind up into a generic meal.

Killing rays and sharks — animals far more valuable alive, either as tourist attractions and/or as vital parts of healthy, breathing ocean — makes little sense.

And in many other instances, other sea creatures pulled up aren’t even broad to market. They’re simply tossed — often already dead — back overboard, treated as competitors (for the record, manta rays don’t eat fish) by the fishermen themselves.

And some still wonder why fisheries are so depleted. See below to understand more.

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Shark bay calm

Lead me beside still water

A great afternoon snorkeling and free-diving with reef sharks. Which, for the record, are super fast and swim away too quick.

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