Mercilessly Fin-ished: Divers Find Shark Massacre Off Colombia Coast

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Shark fins dry after slaughter

More than 2,000 of the oceanic beasts were stripped of their fins and left for dead at the bottom of the Pacific.

Imagine the horror of the researchers who traveled to the Malpelo wildlife sanctuary off the coast of Colombia to study the hammerhead, Galápagos and silky sharks that inhabit the area: they found a number of them on the ocean floor, brutally murdered simply for their fins.

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Sandra Bessudo, a Colombian adviser for environmental issues, reported the massacre discovered by the divers last week. She said the Russian scientists saw a total of 10 fishing boats illegally prowling the ocean inside the protected reserve. “When the divers dove, they started finding a large number of animals without their fins. They didn’t see any alive,” Bessudo told the Guardian.

They estimate that the ten trawlers were able to haul away 200 fins a piece, leading Bessudo’s team to calculate a death toll of more than 2,000 sharks. The demand for shark fin soup, a popular denotation of wealth and grandeur in Asia, is ever growing, leading to an increase in ruthless attacks on the animals. The Malpelo Sanctuary off the coast of Colombia has been declared a protected reserve of plants and animals and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the area lies more than 200 miles (320 km) away from the Colombian coast, making it difficult for the Navy to regularly patrol.

The divers noted the boats were all flying the Costa Rican flag. So far, Costa Rican official Arturo Navarro informally condemned the attacks, saying that the government would issue an official statement within a few days.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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