The Galapagos Islands – off the coast of Ecuador – are known for many iconic shark species, such as the Scalloped Hammerhead and Whale Shark, but the region hosts more than 30 shark species. The Galapagos is perceived to be a pristine sanctuary for marine species. However, hardly anything is known about these marine top-predators and many of the species are still illegally caught in long-line fisheries; proving the importance of gathering baseline information, using field observations and genetics, to improve the local conservation management.
I was lucky to visit Galapagos after attending the “Sharks International” conference in Brazil, where I presented my preliminary results on sex-determination systems in sharks. During my stay on San Cristobal Island, I had the chance to aid on the field trips of two different projects.
The first project aims to enhance the baseline knowledge of the Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) in Galapagos. This project investigates several population characteristics and movement of juvenile sharks. The second project seeks to develop new genetic tools to monitor the shark catches for illegal fin trade. More specifically, they plan to design and validate genetic provenance markers that can identify the origin of a tissue (or fin) sample from Galapagos Sharks (C. galapagensis). Our trip aimed to catch new individuals to test the provenance markers.
Finally, I saw many iconic animals and I was lucky enough to see both Hammerhead and Galapagos sharks while diving (see pictures).