Evidence of fishing down and illegal shark finning in the Galápagos Islands

paper3Published online on 23. April 2014

The demise of Darwin’s fishes: evidence of fishing down and illegal shark finning in the Galápagos Islands

Laurenne Schiller, Juan José Alava, Jack Grove, Günther Reck, Daniel Pauly


  1. The fauna of the Galápagos Island chain is characterized by high biodiversity and endemism. Thus, the conservation of its terrestrial and marine wildlife, including the sustainable management of local fisheries, is of paramount importance.
  2. Although the commercial exploitation of fish in the Galápagos did not intensify until the mid-1900s, issues of overexploitation and mismanagement are already of serious concern. However, to date, research on Galápagos fisheries has been largely species or island specific, and no long-term cumulative catch statistics exist.
  3. In this study, total landings associated with the industrial and artisanal fisheries of the Galápagos Islands were compiled and analysed in an effort to assess accurately the amount of seafood that has been extracted from this region over the last six decades.
  4. The total catch for all sectors from 1950–2010 was 797 000 t, of which industrially caught tuna made up 80%.
  5. The results also show a high degree of fishing down within the in-shore ecosystem catch, whereby planktivorous mullets have replaced high trophic level groupers within the past three decades. This shift has coincided with the spatial expansion of the Galápagos fishing fleet to areas further off-shore, where predatory species are not yet depleted.
  6. In addition to legally caught and exported seafood, Galápagos waters are also prone to illegal fishing. Of primary concern are shark finning practices that have escalated in intensity since the 1980s. Despite attempts at mitigation, this ecologically destructive and wasteful practice continues to occur in the Galápagos Marine Reserve.

Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, Early View Version, doi: 10.1002/aqc.2458



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