Massive Chinese fleet jeopardizes threatened shark species around the Galápagos Marine Reserve and waters off Ecuador: implications for national and international fisheries policy. (Editorial)

Being a UNESCO-World Heritage Site, the Galápagos harbors the largest global shark biomass in the world’s oceans and a unique marine biodiversity. However, the waters around the Galapagos Islands have regularly been susceptible to fishing assaults by local and foreign industrial fleets, including Colombian, Costa Rican, Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean, which have illegally practiced shark fining, i.e. the wasteful practice of removing of dorsal, pelvic and pectoral fins from sharks. In 2001, the Galápagos National Park seized a Costa Rican vessel with > 1000 shark fins, killing at least 200 sharks, while an Ecuadorian vessel containing a total of 379 sharks from seven shark species was seized by the Ecuadorian Navy and Galápagos National Park in 2011. This has now obviously become a persistent, problem within and around the Galápagos Marine Reserve (GMR), evoking a classic case of the “Tragedy of the Commons”. The removal of high tropic level fish and marine predators such as groupers, dolphin fish, marlins, tuna and sharks can cause severe trophic cascade effects in the Galápagos marine ecosystem with serious consequences to the socio-economic welfare of Galápagos and Ecuador’s coastal small-scale fishing communities.