Shark conservation and blanket bans in the eastern Pacific Ocean
Sharks are one of the most threatened marine animals, with fishing identified as the prime human activity responsible for population declines. The tropical eastern Pacific, a biogeographic region spanning the coastal areas from Mexico to Peru including the Colombian Pacific coast and the Galapagos archipelago, forms critical habitat and migratory routes for sharks and other marine megafauna. The Colombian government recently announced a total (blanket) ban on all forms of shark fishing in the country, including artisanal and industrial. Prohibiting shark fisheries in Colombia could drive fishing and trade under-ground, fueling criminality, and marginalization. This will not only undermine recent efforts of local communities and researchers to manage small-scale fisheries, but will criminalize a key source of income for a historically marginalized part of Colombian society. To be effective and ethical, this government decision needs to be rethought incorporating a more holistic management strategy consented among different stakeholder groups.