Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Ecuador criticized over law legalizing the sale of shark fin

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Hundreds of sharks have been slaughtered daily off the coast of Ecuador since a ban on the sale of fins was lifted last week, prompting warnings of ecological disaster.

Fishing boats have returned to shore laden with fins of dozens of species, including several that are threatened with extinction, which are vital to maintaining biodiversity, according to critics.

The spectacle of fins piled up on piers has triggered a political row, pitting the government and fishermen against the rest of the country. Most of the fins are exported to Asia, where they end up in soup bowls.

"It is a big mistake. More than 400 sharks are being caught every day? that damages the whole [food] chain," said Esperanza Martinez, of the advocacy group Ecological Action.

Others say up to 1,000 are being caught.

Shark fishing remains illegal but Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa legalized the sale of fins of sharks caught accidentally, saying the revenue would help impoverished fishermen to feed their families. However, with no clear way to determine whether a shark was caught accidentally or intentionally, the fishermen appear to regard the move as a green light to kill as many as they want in Ecuador's Pacific waters.

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