Blue echoes - PhMuseum

Blue echoes

Federico Vespignani

2016 - Ongoing

Mexico

“It might happen, but you’ll never know when. I came to understand this when my brother never came back. On that day, I made peace with fear.” So says Reyes Cosio Rosas, a shark hunter from El Sargento, a small fishing village in Baja, California. Every night he faces the dark waters of the Sea of Cortez for a living.

Jacques Cousteau called this place “the world’s aquarium”; its waters host more than 900 species of fish and over 30 species of cetaceans, carnivorous aquatic mammals like dolphins. And yet, this rich habitat is in danger: years of overfishing have dramatically affected its delicate ecosystem.

Due to this overfishing in the Sea of Cortez, the community of shark fishermen—or “Tiburoneros”—from El Sargento were forced to migrate to the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula more than ten years ago. This means that they spend most of their lives away from their families on abandoned islands, which are little more than outposts at the edge of the world. Every day they journey up to 40 miles away from the coast in an infinite routine.

“Blue Echoes” is an emotional journey that follows the relationship between these men and the powerful (and dangerous) nature that surrounds them. They are guests in this capricious, aquatic environment; what keeps you alive can also kill you.

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  • Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
    Reyes Cosio Rosas, 28-year-old shark hunter. He's listening to the sounds of the whales to figure out where to cast his net. Whales pose the biggest danger to fishermen: if a single whale hits the net, it could drag the boat into the abyss.

  • Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
    Tiny organisms, known as sea fireflies, light up the sea at night.

  • The Pacific Ocean, off Magdalena Bay, Mexico.
    A blue shark hooked just before being caught. It is estimated that millions of sharks are killed each year as a result of fishing. This shark is now classified as "near-threatened" on the IUCN Red List.

  • Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
    Tiny organisms, known as sea fireflies, light up the sea at night.

  • Punta Arena, Baja California, Mexico.
    An abandoned building used as a shelter by fishermen.

  • Punta Arena, Baja California, Mexico.
    A shark fisherman washes in a ruined house on the island. The isolation that these people experience leads them to be very wary of outsiders; likewise, the international pressure to ban shark fishing increases their distrust.

  • Punta Arena, Baja California, Mexico.
    The stomach of a smooth hammerhead shark. The smooth hammerhead is highly valued for its fins. It only reproduces once every two years, making it vulnerable to over-exploitation and population depletion. In 2014, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) voted to increase their protection regulating the international trade for these sharks.

  • Punta Arena, Baja California, Mexico.
    Fishermen burn trash and carcasses at night.

  • The Pacific Ocean off Magdalena Bay, Mexico.
    A Silky Shark as it died.
    Sharks are targeted for their meat, which is sold all over Mexico and for their use in the shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asia, but as they are slow-growing and slow to reproduce, they are vulnerable to overfishing.

  • Punta Arena, Baja California, Mexico.
    Ivan Lucero, 26, is a shark fishermen from El Sargento. Ivan studied agrarian studies at the University of La Paz, but he didn't find work in that field. Now he is a "tiburonero."

  • The Pacific Ocean off Magdalena Bay, Mexico.
    A silky shark swims freely in the open water. This shark can be found in continental and insular shelves and the oceans adjacent to them. Nowadays the silky shark is listed as Near Threatened (NT) according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) thanks to the high demand for its fins and meat.

  • Punta Arena, Baja California, Mexico.
    A shark fisherman or "Tiburonero" Comes back to his shack. Shark fishers usually work 14 hours a day. They stay for long times away from their families, and their camps are located in remote areas, difficult to reach.

  • El Sargento, Baja California, Mexico.
    The grave of Larry Cosio Rosas, brother of Reyes Cosio Rosas, a shark fisherman who died in 2013 during a shipwreck.

  • Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
    The last light of the day in the Sea of Cortez.
    Jacques Cousteau called it "The world's aquarium" for its biodiversity, but decades of overfishing mainly from large fishing boats have caused a total collapse of fish stocks and have destroyed its ecosystem.


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