Sleek and athletic, the Shortfin Mako is the world’s fastest shark. Sought for meat, fins, and sport, Mako sharks are either targeted commercially or captured accidentally in fisheries targeting other species. For far too long, the top Mako fishing nations have landed this vulnerable species without limit, and the result is a disaster.
Last summer, scientists associated with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) released a report on the dire status of Atlantic Mako shark populations, revealing serious overfishing and depletion in the North Atlantic. The new analyses show that the North Atlantic Mako population has a 54% chance of recovering from years of overfishing by 2040 if catches are cut to zero, leaving scientists to recommend a complete and immediate ban on retaining shortfin Makos from the region, as well as measures to reduce the Mako mortality associated with accidental catches. This scientists’ advice was presented to fishery managers for possible action at the 25th Regular Meeting of the Commission, in November 2017, but the shark fishing decisions fell far short of the scientific advice and conservationists’ expectations, leaving this exceptionally vulnerable species at risk for population collapse.
ICCAT 2017: A Wake-Up Call
Over 13K Project AWARE supporters voiced their concerns when we mobilized our global community in the run-up to ICCAT 2017. Together with our Shark League partners - Shark Advocates International, The Shark Trust and Ecology Action Centre - we called for national and international protections for Shortfin Mako and encouraged leadership from top fishing nations. We handed over the results of the #Divers4Makos petition to use scuba divers' influence with governments of key dive destinations such as Egypt, South Africa and the US.
ICCAT Parties agreed to narrow the conditions under which Shortfin Makos can be landed and issued a binding recommendation to immediately take actions to end overfishing of the North Atlantic Shortfin Mako stock. The outcome of the meeting is a first step toward preventing further population decline but is very disappointing. The measure includes numerous exceptions and is not in line with the clearest scientific advice to completely and immediately ban retention.
Since ICCAT 2017, we’ve been keeping an eye on the top Mako fishing countries - the EU (particularly Spain and Portugal), Morocco, Canada, Japan and the U.S. - to ensure that they come up with solid measures to implement the 2017 ICCAT binding recommendation as the first step in the development of a rebuilding plan due in 2019. The 26th Regular Meeting of ICCAT taking place in Croatia, 12-19 November 2018, is a new opportunity to use our collective voice to call for urgent additional actions.
Join us and our Shark League partners in urging top fishing nations to prohibit retention of Atlantic Mako sharks immediately, as advised by ICCAT scientists, and push for an Atlantic-wide ban at the November 2018 ICCAT meeting.
Based on last summer’s population assessment, ICCAT scientists report the following for the North Atlantic Mako shark population:
- Overfishing is occurring on an overfished population;
- Declines will continue under current catch levels;
- Catch must be cut to zero to rebuild stocks within the next two decades; and
- A complete ban on retention is the most effective, immediate conservation measure.
Governments can no longer use uncertainty in previous assessments to excuse inaction. The 2017 assessment is clear: the Atlantic Shortfin Mako face a dire situation and a full ban is urgently needed. The time to protect the Atlantic Shortfin Mako population is NOW!