If you've ever eaten the Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup, you've had a taste of ocean destruction.
Sharks are greatly valued for their fins which are sold for high prices in Asia. Shark fin soup is served at Chinese weddings and banquets to symbolise wealth and prestige.
The market demand for this one part of the shark has given rise to shark 'finning,' a practice in which the fins are cut off a captured shark and the rest of the animal is then dumped, often alive, back into the sea. Sharks (unlike most other fish) have only a few young at a time and so take a long time to recover from exploitation.
Shark populations around the world are in decline. Worldwide, 90% of large fish including sharks have been wiped out from our oceans since 1950, according to a 2003 study published in Nature.
In July Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, legalised the sale of fins from sharks caught by accident, saying the revenue would help impoverished fishermen to feed their families. This despite the fact that the government of Ecuador still bans fishing for sharks.
Since it's impossible to tell whether sharks have been caught intentionally or as bycatch, legalizing the export of shark fins almost certainly results in more sharks being killed intentionally.
When the decree came into effect, fishermen started returning to shore with hundreds of sharks - estimates of the daily catch range from 400 to 1000. Since there is no way to tell if a shark was caught by accident or design, all these fins can legally enter trade.
Reports indicate that there is now a large effort to catch sharks underway in the waters of Ecuador, despite the fact that this practice remains illegal.
What you can do:
Shark fishing remains illegal in Ecuador. Send President Correa an email or letter urging him to enforce that law, noting that the current catch is unlikely to be sustainable and represents a directed fishery for sharks, not simply the marketing of fins from bycaught sharks.
Stop shark slaughter in Ecuador