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The U.S. takes a stance against seafood fraud and illegal fishing

New U.S. regulations will protect marine mammals, such as this sea lion, in international fisheries (Laura Wais)

Last month, the U.S. made an announcement that could help reduce illegal fishing and seafood fraud in foreign fisheries.

The U.S. will now increase traceability of seafood imports from high risk countries to ensure compliance with national and international fishing regulations. This legislation will complement regulations enacted last fall to ensure international compliance with American fishing standards for protecting marine mammals. Together, these regulations ensure that foreign fishers wishing to import their products into the U.S.—one of the largest seafood importers in the world—take measures to curtail illegal fishing in their waters.

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Protecting Sea Turtles in Nicaragua

Nesting olive-ridley sea turtles

Nicaragua’s stunning beaches are more than tourist attractions. The sandy bluffs along the coral corridor provide a refuge for thousands of nesting hawksbill, olive-ridley, leatherback and green sea turtles. In fact, Nicaragua’s La Flor Wildlife Refuge hosts more than 100,000 olive-ridley nests each year.

WildAid completed an enforcement assessment last year of three marine protected areas (MPAs) in Nicaragua’s coral corridor to address turtle poaching and other threats to the region’s biodiversity.

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How to Strengthen Community Support for Marine Conservation

Palau's legendary rock islands

During our latest visit to Palau, a beautiful island nation between the Philippines and Indonesia, WildAid’s marine team explored some interesting approaches to strengthening support for marine conservation.

One of the greatest concerns among the nations we work with is how to ensure that communities support and respect marine regulations. In developing nations especially, communities often rely on marine resources to supply both daily nutrition and their economic livelihood. In coastal communities, fishing is a way of life and regulations can be seen as an intrusion into local tradition. Thus, community interactions must be important considerations in any enforcement plan.

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Protecting the Galapagos with Angermeyer Cruises

The M/Y WildAid's Passion (Angermeyer Cruises)

WildAid is pleased to announce a new partnership with Angermeyer Cruises/ Andando Tours to protect the Galapagos marine environment, allowing visitors to be part of the solution to the Archipelago’s growing problems. 

WildAid and Angermeyer Cruises/ Andando Tours have teamed up to create the Galapagos Conservation Fund to help stop some of the greatest threats to the Galapagos Islands: illegal fishing and the threat of invasive species. In a bold demonstration of commitment, Angermeyer Cruises has renamed their 173-foot luxury yacht to “WildAid’s Passion for Galapagos” and will make a $100 donation to the fund for every passenger that books a cruise on M/Y WildAid’s Passion. Besides encouraging guests to contribute, Angermeyer Cruises will also donate all proceeds from a one-week charter to the fund annually.

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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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Casquita’s Journey: Rescuing an Injured Sea Turtle in Ecuador

Machalilla wildlife hospital volunteers oversee the treatment of an injured sea turtle

This week marked the beginning of a fresh start for Casquita, an Olive Ridley sea turtle in Ecuador. Accompanied by children from the local community, Casquita triumphantly made her way back to the sea after recovering from injuries inflicted by a boat propeller and malnutrition.

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Galapagos Islands Have the Largest Shark Biomass in the World

A group of hammerhead sharks swims over the sandy seafloor populated with garden eels at Darwin Island. These sharks are known for their ability to make sudden and sharp turns as the unique wide-set placement of their eyes allows them a vertical 360-degree view, which is ideal for stalking their prey. (Enric Sala/ National Geographic for National Geographic Pristine Seas)

In a study published this week, scientists from the National Geographic Society and Charles Darwin Research Station found that Darwin and Wolf in the Galapagos Islands is home to the world's largest shark biomass (the total mass of sharks in a given area) in the world.

This is especially welcome news as sharks continue to be hunted for the shark fin trade — with an estimated 73 million sharks killed annually. According to lead author Pelayo Salinas de Leon, "[T]he islands of Darwin and Wolf are jewels in the crown of the Galapagos,” due to the abundance of these top predators indicating a healthy marine ecosystem. 

However, the two-year study funded by Helmsley Charitable Trust also found that reef fish in the area have been severely reduced due to overfishing. To protect its marine life, the Ecuadorian government created a marine sanctuary at Darwin and Wolf in March.

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Illegal Fishermen Arrested in Galapagos Marine Reserve

Illegal fishing vessel Maria Tatiana IV (GNPS)

Late last week, a commercial fishing vessel and its six fiberglass boats were caught illegally fishing within the Galapagos Marine Reserve with a catch of 160 sharks and other fish.

The Maria Tatiana IV, a fishing vessel from continental Ecuador entered the Galapagos Marine Reserve’s boundaries late Thursday night. Park rangers in the Galapagos National Park control center monitored its trajectory using technology provided by WildAid while patrol vessels sped towards the fishing vessel, having been alerted to this suspicious activity.

After a full day and night chasing the poachers at sea, the Galapagos park rangers and Ecuadorian Navy arrested 21 crew members and seized all seven boats, the long lines and the bounty of illegally caught species. These included 81 sharks—36 silky sharks, 24 blue sharks, 14 pelagic thresher sharks, six bigeye thresher sharks and one great white shark.

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Improved Surveillance to Protect Ecuador’s Manta Populations

The park rangers at Isla de la Plata, a part of Ecuador's Machalilla National Park, now have increased protection for their waters. Nicknamed “Little Galapagos” by the locals, the uninhabited island off the mainland coast is home to five species of sea turtles, 20 species of whales and dolphins, hammerhead and whale sharks, and countless species of fish, corals and mollusks. It's also home to the largest population of Giant Manta Rays (Manta birostris), estimated at 1,500 individuals.

Ecuador’s marine biodiversity is important not only for the health of the ocean, but also for the nation's fishing and tourism industries. In a recent study, we estimated the value of manta tourism at approximately $140 million worldwide. 

However, small-scale and commercial fishers frequently engage in illegal fishing that threatens mantas and the health of the marine environment. Trawl and long-line fishing, both popular in Ecuador, affect endangered sharks, sea birds and sea turtles. Unsustainable fishing methods also kill thousands of mantas around the world each year when caught as bycatch. 

This month, WildAid and Conservation International achieved an important milestone in real-time monitoring of Ecuador’s marine environment with the installation of a long-range surveillance camera and radio-based monitoring software (AIS) on Isla de la Plata. The long-range camera and AIS surveillance are part of a comprehensive marine protection plan that will help park authorities prevent illegal fishing in the area, helping to protect its abundant marine ecosystems.

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Victory for Sharks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve

Good news for the Galapagos Islands and for shark conservation! Today, the Ecuadorian government announced the creation of a new 15,000-square-mile marine sanctuary — an expansion of the “no-take” zone of the Galapagos Marine Reserve — around the small islands of Darwin and Wolf.

The new no-take zone, roughly the size of Belgium, will now be protected from fishing and other activities. Small-scale fishing cooperatives who support the new initiative had previously been allowed to operate in the area, but increased pressure from industrial trawlers and illegal shark fin hunters have necessitated increased protections.

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