Every morning, hundreds of shark bodies and thousands of shark fins are sold on the Pacific coast of Ecuador. Fishermen carry dead bodies of thresher sharks at dawn on the beach of Manta, Ecuador.
Up to 70 million sharks are killed annually worldwide for the trade, despite the fact that 126 of an estimated 460 shark species are threatened with extinction. A fisherman carries dead bodies of thresher sharks at dawn on the beach of Manta, Ecuador.
Shark finning has been banned by more than 60 fishing nations, including the United States and the European Union. However, international waters are unregulated. A dead thresher shark is being finned by a fisherman on the beach of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.
Most of the shark species fished in Ecuadorean waters (tresher shark, hammerhead shark, whitetip shark,…) are considered as “vulnerable to extinction” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Dead thresher sharks lie in the pool of blood on the beach of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.
Although fishing sharks barely sustains the livelihoods of many poor fishermen on the Ecuadorean at the end of the shark fins business chain they are sold as the most expensive seafood item in the world. A dead thresher shark lies on the beach of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.
Although the Galapagos Marine Reserve regulations prohibit all shark fishing, whether target or by-catch, some environmental groups claim that a significant part of Ecuadorean shark catch comes from the Galapagos. A seagull feeds on the heads of dead sharks thrown away on the beach of Manta, Ecuador.
In Asia, the shark's fin soup is believed to boost sexual potency, prevent heart diseases and increase vitality. A jaw of a dead shark seen on the beach of Manta, Ecuador.
Reproducing infrequently (only one pup per year) and reaching maturity slowly (up to fifteen years), it makes very difficult for the shark population to recover from uncontrolled overfishing. A dead thresher shark is being finned by a fisherman on the beach of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.
Cut shark fins need at least five days to dry up in the sun, with no chemicals added, before they can be exported. An Ecuadorean trader sells for up to 150 USD per kilo of the dried shark fins. A trader holds up dried shark fins at a processing plant in Manta, Ecuador.
The Ecuadorean shark fins are sold primarily to Hong Kong, the international hub for the shark fin trade, but might also be exported to Taiwan and China. A box full of cut shark fins seen on the beach of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.
Rapid economic growth across Asia in recent years have allowed many Chinese to afford the dish and therefore the demand for the shark fins has dramatically increased worldwide. A shark fin buyer looks at a pile of shark fins on the beach of Manta, Ecuador.
The soup, a largely tasteless dish that can sell for 100 USD a bowl, is considered a high class status symbol in Chinese culture. Shark fin buyers wait for fishermen at dawn on the beach of Manta, Ecuador.
Due to the poor quality of the shark meat, there is almost no demand after it on the coast of Ecuador. Shark meat is often falsely labeled and sold as ‘corvina’ in the interior, mainly in the Andes. Cut shark heads and carcasses lie on the beach of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.
Although the targeted shark fishing remains illegal, the presidential decree from 2007 allows free trade of sharks from accidental by-catch and commercialisation of shark fins. Fishermen carry dead bodies of thresher sharks at dawn on the beach of Manta, Ecuador.
International market for shark fins is the primary factor driving demand for and overfishing of most shark species. Hundreds of shark fins dry in the sun at a processing plant in Manta, Ecuador.

Shark slaughter

Manta and Puerto López, Ecuador, 2012

Every morning, hundreds of shark bodies and thousands of shark fins are sold on the Pacific coast of Ecuador. Although the targeted shark fishing remains illegal, the presidential decree from 2007 allows free trade of sharks from accidental by-catch and commercialisation of shark fins. However, most of the shark species fished in Ecuadorean waters (tresher shark, hammerhead shark, whitetip shark,…) are considered as “vulnerable to extinction” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Reproducing infrequently (only one pup per year) and reaching maturity slowly (up to fifteen years), it makes very difficult for the shark population to recover from uncontrolled overfishing. In the past two decades, many hunted sharks species have declined 80 percent due to excessive fishing.

Although shark fishing barely sustains the livelihoods of many poor fishermen on the Ecuadorean at the end of the shark fins business chain they are sold as the most expensive seafood item in the world. The Ecuadorean shark fins are sold primarily to Hong Kong, the international hub for the shark fin trade, but might also be exported to Taiwan and China. In Asia, the shark's fin soup is believed to boost sexual potency, prevent heart diseases and increase vitality. The soup, a largely tasteless dish that can sell for 100 USD a bowl, is considered a high class status symbol in Chinese culture. Rapid economic growth across Asia in recent years have allowed many Chinese to afford the dish and therefore the demand for the shark fins has dramatically increased worldwide. Many shark species populations have appeared on the road to extinction.

Photography by Jan Sochor
Sound recorded by Jan Sochor