How rogue fishing fleets plunder the ocean’s top predator
MANTA, ECUADOR — It was billed as the biggest poaching bust in history, a monumental win for conservationists.
An Ecuadorian Navy patrol vessel, guided by advanced radar and a small plane, bore down on a ship the length of a football field making a beeline across the Galapagos Marine Reserve — probably the most fiercely protected waters in the world. Filling the freighter’s freezers: 150 tons of dead sharks, most of them endangered and illegal to sell.
Only small pieces off those 6,000 carcasses were actually of much value. The fins.
Shark fins are a delicacy in China, the feature ingredient in an expensive soup served at banquets and fancy restaurants. At peak, dried fins have sold for more per pound than heroin. That price, coupled with high demand from a booming Chinese economy, has created a brutally efficient industry capable of strip-mining sharks from the sea.