Photo of remote beach highlights 'reality' of black-market seafood trade

The photo shows more than a dozen of an endangered species on the beach ready for butchering.

A shocking image has just been released by Sea Shepherd Brazil to highlight the devastating impact the black-market trading of fish is having on an endangered species.

No matter their conservation status, targeting stingrays and sharks is banned across Brazil, however authorities appear helpless to stop fishermen from doing so. The photo shows over a dozen upturned stingrays on the beach in preparation for butchering. Investigators also documented a manta ray, which is listed as vulnerable to extinction, being taken for its meat.

Over a dozen rays at Praia do Arpoador in Brazil.
Over a dozen rays were photographed dead on Praia do Arpoador. Source: Sea Shepherd Brazil

The image of the rays was taken at Praia do Apoador in the state of Maranhão in May.

But Sea Shepherd Brazil president Nathalie Gil told Yahoo News Australia it doesn't capture anything unique — targeted fishing of protected species happens all the time at remote beaches all around the country. “This is what we find all over our coast, it’s our reality,” she said.

Shark fins attract higher price in Asia

Although ray and shark flesh is usually collected for the the local market, shark fins attract a higher price overseas so they are sold to international buyers.

In June, Brazilian authorities seized the largest ever shark fin consignment which was reportedly destined for Asia — it’s estimated the 29-tonne haul contained the body parts of 10,000 sharks. The previous record was a 28-tonne capture in 2020.

While bycatch is allowed to be processed when it’s not an endangered species, Gil said Sea Shepherd Brazil’s data clearly shows they are clearly being targeted. “I am frustrated, especially if you consider the majority of the coast is in the blindspot of law enforcement,” she said.

Two men carrying a dead ray.
Rays are often butchered for their meat. Source: Sea Shepherd Brazil

Australia's own ocean creatures under threat of extinction

Globally almost 40 per cent of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction. Australia remains one of the world’s biggest importers of shark fins. Many of the nation’s shark and ray species are facing extinction due to over fishing. But one ray-like species, the Maugean skate, which is listed as endangered, is in peril because the salmon farming industry is polluting its waters.

A review is currently underway into salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour where a small population of the Maugean skate survives.

Progress is too slow, scientist argues

On Tuesday, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Humane Society International and the Environmental Defenders Office renewed calls for Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to work faster to protect the species from extinction, and warned Tasmania has another “Tasmanian tiger” on its hands.

“Progress is being made to save the skate, but it’s too slow. The necessary actions to avert extinction have long been known; the writing has been on the wall for so long that the paint is peeling and the wall crumbling,” AMCS shark scientist Dr Leonardo Guida. “Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek must not delay further on removing salmon from the harbour and honouring the very laws that are supposed to benefit human and environmental health.”

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