How Mongabay Latam exposed the environmental impact of shark and ray bycatch in Latin America | Mongabay Impacts

Mako shark surrounded by divers in the open ocean.

Mako shark. Photo by Oceana México.

Over the past few years, Mongabay Latam, Mongabay’s Spanish-language bureau, has made waves with its in-depth, objective reporting on the oceans, a typically underreported topic throughout Latin America. Within the marine field, their work has significantly impacted the illegal trafficking of sharks and rays.

Pioneering journalism on shark and ray bycatch

Tuna caught in a net.

Tuna caught in a net. Photo by José Villacreses.

In 2020, the team worked on a groundbreaking series called Pesca incidental: el enemigo oculto de los mares (English: Bycatch: the hidden enemy of the seas). This journalistic effort analyzed the bycatch of sharks during the last five years from official and public data in Ecuador, Peru and Chile. The results showed that during this period, bycatch volumes skyrocketed in these regions, with three species of sharks most affected: the silky shark, porbeagle and shortfin mako shark. All three species are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Real-world impacts

There were several real-world impacts due to Mongabay Latam’s reporting. Apart from raising widespread awareness on the issue of shark and ray bycatch in Latin America, it also made waves in the region’s political landscape.

For example, after publication, Mongabay Latam’s oceans editor, Michelle Carrere, was invited to present the investigation findings to the Chilean Congress’s fisheries commission.

Carlos Bustamante, the South America vice-chair for the IUCN’s Shark Specialist Group, also attended the meeting, which allowed the IUCN, the global wildlife conservation authority, to present scientific concerns regarding shark fishing before Congress. As a result, the commission decided to review the problem to evaluate the possibility of establishing regulations around shark fisheries, such as a minimum catch size.

Silky shark. Photo by

Silky shark. Photo by

In addition, Chile’s Sub-secretary of Fisheries also ordered the mandatory return to the sea of ​​rays and sharks accidentally caught during fishing operations. Likewise, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals published several of the articles from the Mongabay Latam series on its website.

Researchers also benefited from Mongabay Latam’s work. Enzo Acuña, a shark specialist at Chile’s Universidad Católica del Norte, was responsible for developing a biological study of porbeagle sharks for the government and requested the databases Mongabay Latam used for the series.

One of the reports by Mongabay contributor Alina Manrique (who is also a reporter for one of the most influential independent media outlets in Latin America, La Barra Espaciadora), was a finalist for the Jorge Mantilla Ortega journalism awards in Ecuador, the most prestigious in the country.

More impact-driven journalism in the future

As Mongabay continues to expand its offering in independent journalism, its power is on full display in driving real-world impacts, such as what the Latam team was able to accomplish throughout Latin America.

In the years following the launch of the mini-series, the Mongabay Latam team published several other articles on the topic that you may be interested in reading:

Mongabay Latam will continue to produce pioneering reporting on oceans and the threats to marine ecosystems.

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