Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ensenada Fish Market - Mexico's White Sharks

This week I was in Ensenada, Mexico for a series of meetings with government officials. With me was long time business associate and friend, Greg Grivetto, owner of Horizon Charters.

For the past four years we have been documenting white sharks taken off the coast of Enseneda and sold a swordfish and marlin for 50-75 peso per kilo at local markets.

Most of the sharks taken are "Young of the Year," usually less then 6 feet in length and taken, according to local fishermen, not far off the coast.

This week we quickly spotted another shark that had just arrived fresh off the boats for processing. It was a 6 foot female.

The local fishermen here are not the bad guys in this yearly drama. In fact they could be shark conservations best assets, as they and they alone know where these animals are found, at what depth, water temperatures, and even seasonal numbers.

What these animals represent is a treasure trove of basic data from DNA sampling, stomach contents, to sex ratios.

All that is needed is the desire to gather the data. As I told Greg who was snapping images of this weeks sad take, "Right now all these animals represent are carcass, when they could even in death be telling us the story of their short lives until this point."

During our short sampling effort this shark represents the 17th animal we have documented here.

The Good News

I sent this image along with a few others to John O'Sullivan from Monterey Bay AQ, who quickly forwarded them on to Dr.Oscar Sosa in Ensenada. The interest was electric, and if all goes well these animals just might be able to tell us the rich and important "back story" missing from this weeks catch.

Patric Douglas CEO


John said...

Dear Patrick

I'm constantly reading your blog. I have a few questions about the catches of the Mexican coast.

You only have recorded seventeen catches over the last few years... But would you have noticed if there had been more ? Is this something other fisherman might start to exploit ? Is this a threat to the local great white population. What are you going to do to stop this loophole or can you somehow buy off the fishermen into tagging the sharks instead of killing them

Shark Diver said...

Hi John,

Great questions. Here's what I know.

When I saw my first white a few years ago at the fish market I was very surprised but also understanding.

Whites are regularly taken off the coast of Mexico and the ones I see are generally very big sharks on You Tube and images sent to the blog.

These were YOY.

In our second year down there we saw 5 more pups, so I decided to start asking some questions from the fish sellers who directed me to a small panga group in the harbor.

As it turns out these sharks are part of a total shark catch that this group targets each week. They have been shark fishing for many years and I did not get the impression any of these guys were out to target whites specifically.

At 50-75 peso a kilo these guys do not make much money from these sharks.

I suspect and am told it is a year round catch, I only find myself in Mexico from August - November each year and make sure I document the local fish market.

As for stopping this?

You have to be a realist with any local fishery anywhere in the world. I would settle for these sharks being sampled for DNA so their deaths are worth something more than 50-70 peso per kilo.

Over the long haul I am sure something could be worked out with these guys, but as they are already selling the carcass as swordfish and marlin, any pushback might just have them dump the sharks at sea and we would loose valuable YOY data.

Local fisheries issues are tricky.

John said...

Thanks for answering. Its always heartbreaking to see these animals in such a state. But its good thing that GW's are not being targeted individualy... Well no kind of shark should be caught and sold in pieces.