With no regulatory protections, overfishing is pushing the tuna-like Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark to the brink of extinction. A 2017 stock assessment performed by ICCAT confirmed that the North Atlantic is being overfished; reported catches of the shortfin mako are over 3,300 tons each year, the equivalent of about 130,000 sharks every year.
During the November 2017 ICCAT meeting, scientists recommended that the annual mako shark catch is reduced to 500 tons or less, which would give shortfin makos the chance to replenish their stocks. No quota limit was agreed to by member nations and a frustrating lack of regulatory action has been taken to protect this important species of shark.
If total catches decrease to the ICCAT recommendation of 500 tons or less, the shortfin mako has only a 35 percent chance of rebuilding stock by 2040. While a zero-catch limit would increase that chance to 54 percent, recovery would still be a slow process and require strict enforcement of any regulatory actions passed.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is an organization that works with 48 member states to manage and conserve tuna and tuna-like species specifically in the Atlantic Ocean and neighboring seas by:
ICCAT works to find the maximum catch limit that can be reasonably sustained by the fish populations in their purview and balance that with the demand for those fish in food and other industries. When populations are in danger, it’s their responsibility to recommend limits to regulatory bodies in each member nation that they can enact to help the species to recover.
Shortfin makos have a high market value because their fins and meat are perceived as high quality in the fishing industry. Highly migratory and able to maintain a body temperature higher than the surrounding water, these sharks are often found in the bycatch of tuna and swordfish fisheries. Their high market value usually makes them the only shark species retained by these fisheries.
However, shortfin makos are slow to grow and mature. Most estimates say that females reach maturity between 4 and 7 years old, with some estimates ranging even higher. They have a relatively short reproductive cycle (approximately two years) and gestation (AKA: pregnancy) lasts for about 12 months. Female makos give birth to fairly large live pups, which comprise most of the bycatch off the northeast coast of North America.
Since 1998, there has been a steady decline in both the population and median size of shortfin makos in the commercial catch off the United States’ and Canada’s Atlantic coasts. This indicates that fewer shortfin makos are able to reach maturity before they are retained.
In short: we’re pulling them out of the water faster than they can mature and reproduce, which is decreasing their population overall and driving them toward extinction.
Project AWARE® will push for an Atlantic-wide ban on shortfin mako retention at the November 2018 ICCAT meeting in order to protect this important species of shark and give it the best possible chance of recovery.
If we don’t take action now, this species will go extinct in our lifetime.
The #Divers4Makos petition calls on top mako-fishing nations to immediately set and enforce a zero-catch limit that will potentially allow the shortfin mako to rebuild its stocks by 2040.
Top mako-fishing countries include:
Your voice is urgently needed to convince regulatory authorities to enact policies that will save the shortfin mako from extinction. Add your name to the 2018 #Divers4Makos petition now. Encourage others to sign the petition, too.
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