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illegal fishing

Mexico and Ecuador Meet to Discuss Marine Enforcement

Mexican officials take Ecuadorian officials on a patrol of Baja California

Known for its stunning seascapes and desert vistas, Baja California’s abundant reefs and thriving marine habitat attract both tourists seeking an escape and illegal fishers profiting off its biodiversity.

Together with partner Pronatura Noreste, WildAid is currently working in the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez, an uninhabited archipelago recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its incredible marine biodiversity, to improve enforcement strategies. The initiative includes developing a comprehensive control and vigilance plan, featuring new surveillance equipment and multi-agency patrols that can be replicated throughout Mexico’s coastal protected areas.

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Protecting Marine Wildlife in an Ecuadorian Sanctuary

Humpback whale breaching in Santa Elena MPA (Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment).

WildAid is visiting Ecuador’s coastal marine protected areas (MPAs) this week, where we’ve been working for the past year and a half with Conservation International. One of these sites is Santa Elena MPA, the western-most point of Ecuador and home to hundreds of species including humpback whales, sea turtles, sharks, mantas, albatrosses, pelicans and 86 fish species.

We developed an enforcement plan for Santa Elena that focuses on conservation priorities of the area. As per the plan, Santa Elena park wardens carry out both preventive and control measures to protect the reserve’s marine wildlife.

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Ecuadorian Courts Sentence Local Illegal Fisher to 3 Years in Prison

Galapagos National Park rangers sorting through the confiscated sea cucumbers (DPNG).

An Ecuador court sentenced a Galapagos resident to three years in prison, earlier this month, for the illegal trafficking of sea cucumbers.

This particular conviction is a victory for the local community and authorities as it serves as an important deterrent for those considering carrying out illegal fishing and trafficking of protected species. Historically, the legal system tended to be more lenient towards local perpetrators; however, this verdict goes a long way in showing that wildlife laws are applied equally to all, regardless of origin.

After two days of deliberation, the Seventh Tribunal in Guayas unanimously sentenced a Galapagos resident to three years in prison for trafficking 3,712 sea cucumbers (181 lbs). The sea cucumbers were discovered January 2016 during a routine search by Galapagos National Park and National Police officers at the Baltra island airport. The trafficker had attempted to smuggle the sea cucumbers inside three cartons, where fish were used to hide the dried and salted sea cucumbers.

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Another Tool in the Fight Against Illegal Fishing

Commercial fishing vessel coming to port.

More than 2.5 billion people—approximately one-third of the global population—depend on fish for food and nutrition. That number is expected to double by 2050.

Unfortunately, 85% of the world’s oceanic fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted. Additionally, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) takes as much as 33% of the world’s total legal fish catch, costing us as much as $23 billion annually, which further threatens future productivity of the world’s fishing stocks.

Many countries employ different tools to combat IUU, including setting catch limits and quotas for fisheries, providing bycatch reduction gear, zoning their marine areas, satellite monitoring and enforcement.

Recently, the United Nations made a historic first step in combatting IUU through the ratification of the Port State Measures Agreement. Originally signed in 2009 by the FAO, the Port State Measures Agreement required a minimum of 25 countries to ratify the agreement for it to take effect.

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Longline Fisheries Threaten Mantas in Ecuador

Did you know that Ecuador has the largest giant manta population?

Illegal fishing continues to pressure Ecuador’s numerous protected areas and fisheries. Funding for conservation efforts on mainland Ecuador is minimal, and due to recent earthquakes, protected area managers have even fewer resources to carry out patrols that protect their marine spaces. WildAid’s work in Ecuador is more important than ever to prevent exploitation of its unique marine life as we celebrate World Oceans Day.

Machalilla National Park along coastal Ecuador is one of the world’s most important sites for manta aggregation as it is home to the largest population of Giant Manta Rays (Manta birostris), estimated at 1,500 individuals. It’s also home to five species of sea turtles, 20 species of whales and dolphins, hammerhead and whale sharks, and countless species of fish and coral reefs.

Listed by the IUCN as “Vulnerable,” the primary threat to manta species is unsustainable fishing. As manta rays have few natural predators, their recent decline is due in large part to direct human predation, driven by the growing demand for their gills or death as bycatch. Compounding matters, mantas are among the slowest to reproduce of all sharks and rays, usually birthing one or two offspring every few years. Their low reproduction rates mean that mantas cannot sustain or survive commercial fishing for long.

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