Publication - Article

Largest global shark biomass found in the northern Galápagos Islands of Darwin and Wolf

Abstract

Overfishing has dramatically depleted sharks and other large predatory fishes worldwide except for a few remote and/or well-protected areas. The islands of Darwin and Wolf in the far north of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) are known for their large shark abundance, making them a global scuba diving and conservation hotspot. Here we report quantitative estimates of fish abundance at Darwin and Wolf over two consecutive years using stereo-video surveys, which reveal the largest reef fish biomass ever reported (17.5 t [Formula: see text] on average), consisting largely of sharks. Despite this, the abundance of reef fishes around the GMR, such as groupers, has been severely reduced because of unsustainable fishing practices. Although Darwin and Wolf are within the GMR, they were not fully protected from fishing until March 2016. Given the ecological value and the economic importance of Darwin and Wolf for the dive tourism industry, the current protection should ensure the long-term conservation of this hotspot of unique global value.