2,000 Sharks Killed for Fins off Colombia
A basket full of shark fins is seen at a private dock in Puntarenas, north of San Jose October 12, 2010 (L); and bodies of sharks are seen at a beach in Manta, Ecuador, January 6, 2007. The sharks are hunted for their fins, which are exported to Asia to make soup. PHOTO: REUTERS

2000 sharks have been hunted and killed in the waters off Malpelo Island, near Colombie's Pacific coastline.

The sharks were then left to die on the beach after the fisherman had sliced off their prized fins, said to be worth thousands each.

Malpelo was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2006 and, aside from precious sea life such as the sea turtle, also hordes a plethora of endangered shark species including Hammerhead, (Sphyrna lewini), Galápagos and Silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis).

With such a rich multitude of rare species, illegal fishermen see it as a prime spot to make a quick buck, according to the Malpelo Foundation, a body that works towards preserving the biodiversity of the region.

The foundation says the region is targeted by international fishing boats, which ignore the local environmental laws, and are causing considerable damage to the local marine life in the area.

The presidential advisor for Biodiversity, Sandra Bessudo, said: "Costa Rican boats are setting out with lines laid with over a thousand hooks for ten days at a time, after which their catch reportedly around 200 or 300 animals."

"I received a report, which is really unbelievable, from one of the divers who came from Russia to observe the large concentrations of sharks in Malpelo. They saw a large number of fishing trawlers entering the zone illegally," said Bessudo.

The fin price

An individual fin is worth $700 in Asia, with the rare species climbing well up into the thousands. The recent catch could be worth up to $4 million in fins alone, and would explain why the rest of the shark meat was left rotting on the beach considering the journey the fisherman still had to go.

What is shocking, however, is that the fins are used for soup - one of the most arbitrary dishes humanity has every conjured up. Once the delicacy is sold, there will be no trace that the animal even existed at all.

The dish is a Chinese delicacy and is served at only the most special of occasions. In many parts of Asia, shark fin soup is a symbol of generosity and wealth but the hunting of sharks has depleted shark populations by as much as 90 per cent, with around 100 million sharks caught each year for their fins. This is, unfortunately, a lucrative industry involving.