Considered Endangered by the IUCN Red List, shortfin mako shark populations have declined significantly worldwide, driven by international demand for their fins and meat. In the North Atlantic specifically, populations have dropped by approximately 60%, due to overfishing and lack of sufficient management to ensure sustainable levels of catch.
Considering these declines, every year since 2017, the Standing Committee Research and Statistics (SCRS) of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has recommended that ICCAT “adopt a non-retention policy without exception in the North Atlantic” for shortfin mako sharks.
This is still the case in 2021, and yet sufficient action has not been taken by ICCAT. Countries fishing in the North Atlantic continue to catch and land mako sharks, despite the fact that even with no allowable catch, their populations will continue to decline until 2035.
Some hope finally arose for these species in 2019, when governments across the world agreed to list shortfin and longfin mako sharks on Appendix II of CITES, meaning that any continued trade had to be both legal and sustainable.
The European Union’s role in the conservation and management is complicated — as they were a champion for the mako shark’s listing under CITES, but have also blocked necessary proposals to ban retention for this species at ICCAT several years in a row.
However, earlier this year they announced their intent to have a temporary 0 export quota for shortfin mako sharks — meaning they are taking their obligations under CITES seriously and do not find the mako shark stock to be healthy enough to sustainably trade it in its current state.
In light of the dire status of shortfin mako sharks in the north Atlantic, we find it highly unlikely that any mako sharks could be sourced sustainably from this population.
We applaud the EU for this critical decision and we will continue to work with governments around the world to ensure sufficient trade management remains in place for mako sharks and all CITES Appendix II listed shark and ray species. We hope that measures such as this will enable shortfin mako populations to recover. However, the science currently indicates that the North Atlantic population simply cannot support trade at this time.
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