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In Shift Towards Eco-Tourism, Releasing Hooked Sharks in Baja California

Sandra Larriva - The Huffington Post
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August 2, 2013

This spring, Shark Diver Magazine went out with the Pelagic Life crew to try and help create/introduce shark diving eco-tourism to a shark fishing community. The shark fishermen have embraced the idea and hope that the plan works and they are able to give up shark fishing, which is a stressful, low paying job and make a better living by showing people sharks. (SharkDiverMag)

Killing sharks never appealed to Gabino Zarabia, who started fishing at the age of 12. But a few years ago, having witnessed two exceptionally profitable seasons in his hometown, the Mexican fishing port of San Carlos in Baja California Sur, the 39-year-old commercial fisherman decided to give the shark business a try.

Just as Zarabia was getting ready to invest in new equipment, a tireless, young consultant from Mexico City by the name of Jeronimo Prieto stepped into the picture and turned his plans around.

Prieto, 27, is the founder of Pelagic Life, a Mexican non-profit with an unusual take on marine conservation: Working with, not against, the frequently demonized fishermen.

Pelagic Life had an idea: Paying local fishermen to help them free, with their bare hands, 100 hooked sharks in the Baja Peninsula. The goal was to teach the fishermen the financial benefits of a live shark, paving the way for ecotourism in the region. (While the port of San Carlos does bring in its share of tourists - it is located on the shores of Magdalena Bay, a scenic hot spot for close grey whale encounters every winter - sharks there are mostly butchered, not marveled at.)

In San Carlos, and in Mexico in general, sharks sell for little (the meat goes for less than $2 a pound; the fins for approximately $15), and shark fishing involves hard work and high risk. Additionally, every year, the general shark population decreases, says Zarabia, and profits are not nearly as high as in 2010 or 2011, when an astonishingly high number of silky sharks cruised through San Carlos.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post

  Check out Grupo Ecologico de Puerto Vallarta

  Check out Deep Blue Conservancy

  Check out Banderas Bay Initiative

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