MAKE OR BREAK FOR ENDANGERED ATLANTIC MAKO SHARKS
Make or break for endangered Atlantic mako sharks.
What: Negotiations on a multi-national proposal to ban retention of shortfin mako sharks from the seriously overfished North Atlantic population. Scientists have advised this action since 2017 to reverse decline and rebuild within ~50 years.
Who: Representatives of Atlantic fishing nations convening virtually for a special intersessional meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a Regional Fishery Management Organisation (RFMO) with 52 Contracting Parties (including the European Union).
When: July 6-8, 2021.
Why It’s Important: Sharks are among the most vulnerable animals taken in high seas fisheries. North Atlantic makos have been seriously overfished and are headed for collapse. The proposed ban is needed to avoid long-term negative (possibly irreparable) consequences for the population, the associated ecosystem, and a variety of stakeholders. If adopted, the ban would set a strong example and could inspire additional shark protections on a global scale.
Background on Mako Sharks & ICCAT: Prized for meat, fins, and sport, shortfin makos are among the Atlantic’s most valuable and imperilled sharks. They are fished across entire ocean basins by many nations, yet there are no international mako catch limits. In 2019, makos were classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered and listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). ICCAT scientists report that shortfin mako catches from the North Atlantic must be minimised in order to stop overfishing and allow the population to recover over several decades. The cornerstone of their advice is a retention ban, without exceptions, which is being proposed by Canada, Senegal, Gabon, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Guinea-Bissau, and The Gambia. The main obstacles to reaching consensus on this action have been the European Union and United States; these two ICCAT Parties have introduced competing proposals that allow continued landings of makos.
Fast facts by countries:
- Canada is the only Atlantic coastal country to implement the mako scientific advice nationally (2020 retention ban).
- Vessels from Spain land more makos than any other country; this take alone is enough to overfish the population.
- Morocco ranks second for North Atlantic shortfin mako take but failed to report 2020 landings by a recent deadline.
- North Atlantic shortfin mako landings in third-ranked Portugal have increased every year since 2014.
- The United States ranks fourth for landings; recreational take increased by an estimated 13t from 2019 to 2020.
- Japan, China, and Norway have expressed their support for the retention ban that scientists advise.