Protecting the sharkiest place on earth

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2021
  • Active
Project types
  • Conservation
  • Education
  • Research
  • The Darwin and Wolf Conservation Fund

Pelayo is on a mission to keep the Galapagos, in his words: ‘the sharkiest place on the planet’. Leveraging what he’s learned from baseline surveys, and collaboration with Professor Mahmood Shivji at the Save our Seas Shark Research Centre (SOS-SRC), his research is now assessing the migratory routes and population genetics of pregnant scalloped hammerhead sharks across the Tropical Eastern Pacific. He is also investigating the movement ecology of female silky sharks in relation to regional fishing fleets around the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). Pelayo continues to advise on shark conservation policy in the region and heighten awareness around its rich marine heritage.

Protecting the sharkiest place on earth

Pelayo Salinas

Project leader
About the project leader

I’m a happy marine ecologist! Since I was a child, I have loved spending as much time as possible in the water. My childhood summers were divided between the rugged Cantabrian coast of Asturias in northern Spain, where I was born, and the idyllic Mediterranean coast of southern Spain, where my dad’s family is from. I moved to the UK when I was 18 to study marine and freshwater biology at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. I got carried away and four years later found myself completing an MSc in the environmental management of marine ecosystems. Then...

Project details

Protecting the sharkiest place on earth

Key objective

Pelayo uses a combination of applied research on key shark species, educational and outreach efforts with the local community, and technical assistance to policy makers, to help conserve the Galapagos as the region with the world’s highest shark biomass.

Why is this important

Overfishing and other human induced stressors have put many shark species on the brink of extinction. The GMR represents a window to the ocean from the past where sharks and other top predators still reign. With ever-increasing fishing pressure around the last ocean wilderness and the global menace of climate change, the aim is to gather relevant knowledge on the ecology of key shark species to inform policies aimed at conserving the Galapagos as the sharkiest place on earth, while inspiring and actively involving the local community in shark conservation.


Since 2015 that we obtained the support of the SOSF to conduct the project ‘Sharks in the birthplace of evolution’ that provided the most comprehensive baseline on the diversity and abundance of sharks across the archipelago and the start of a shark education and outreach program  with the local community, we have continued to expand our shark research, educational and conservation program. In 2017 we started a long-term collaboration with Prof. Mahmood Shivji, director of the Save Our Seas Shark Research Center (SOS-SRC), that was kickstarted by our ‘hot’ discovery on the deep-sea Pacific white skate using hydrothermal vents to incubate their eggs, a behaviour never documented before for the marine environment.

This collaboration with the SOS-SRC has continued to develop in recent years and we are now embarked in a number of joint research projects aimed at better understanding the ecology of key shark species. Two ongoing projects are focused on the movement ecology and population genetics of the scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) and silky (Carcharhinus falcifomis) sharks across the Tropical Eastern Pacific. Both species form large seasonal within the GMR, but are also known to be highly migratory during certain times of the year, like the case of pregnant hammerhead sharks that likely undertake reproductive migrations from the Galapagos to mangrove bays located along the coast of central and south America. Since both species are heavily targeted by both industrial and artisanal fishing fleets, better understanding their movement ecology and population connectivity will allow us to better inform conservation policies aimed at reverting ongoing population declines.

Aims & objectives
  • Determine the migratory routes and population genetics between of pregnant scalloped hammerhead sharks across the Tropical Eastern Pacific.
  • Investigate the movement ecology of female silky sharks and their interaction with regional fishing fleets around the GMR.
  • Raise awareness about the importance of sharks and contribute to capacity building of local and national conservationists.
  • Provide technical advice and assist decision-makers on policies aimed at conserving shark populations across the region.