The flip side of having incredible biodiversity, is the increased risk of species extinction. While Ecuador is one of the 20 most bio-diverse countries in the world, it tops the list with the highest number of animals and plants at risk of extinction.
Separate from the Galapagos Islands which are well know for their unique species, Ecuador’s mainland and marine biodiversity in both flora and fauna is the combined product of its equatorial tropical location, and two major ocean currents that travel along its coastline. But tourism, over-fishing, deforestation and climate change are waging war on the fragile ecosystems that support many species.
Regrettably, even though Ecuador has over 30 national parks which account for more than 10% of the country’s land mass, and 400,000 hectares of marine reserves, there is very little conservation actually done in the field. Many parks and reserves have very few rangers and are only policed at the gate. Least protected are the waters of Ecuador, which are rife with uncontrolled fishing.
Here are a few examples of legal and illegal over-fishing. Shark fishing is banned in Ecuador, as it is in many other countries. Yet from time to time on fishing beaches, you’ll come across loads shark carcasses strewn all over the beach, with their fin chopped off. Sharks are killed and dismembered of dorsal, lateral and tail fins, to meet the insatiable demand for shark fin soup in Asia, which causes the death of 73 million sharks annually.
Meanwhile, Ecuador is one of the world’s largest exporters of Tuna, the population of which is now in rapid decline due to over-fishing, and could become extinct in the next decade. Other countries in South America are seeing declining fish stocks too. For example, Peru which is the culinary capital of South America, now has to import most of the Lenguado it uses (the preferred fish for Ceviche), from all the neighboring countries, because it has exhausted the supply from its own waters.
Ecuador tops the list of countries with the most endangered species.
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