Back in June this year, a report showed that the overfished North Atlantic shortfin mako shark population was continuing to decline and needed not only immediate protection but would take several decades to recover.

As a result of continued unsustainable fishing pressure on the population for their meat and fins resulting in their current depletion, combined with their low reproductive rate, scientists predicted that their numbers will continue to decline for another 15 years even with an immediate increase in protection. Thus the earliest possibility of recovery of the North Atlantic population would be 2045. This is already 5 years later than predicted just 2 years ago! Bearing in mind that this scenario had a 53% chance of becoming a reality provided ALL mortality is ended.

It was therefore abundantly clear from the scientific data and recovery rate projections that urgent protection was required, with the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT: an intergovernmental organization responsible for the management and conservation of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas), held just a few days ago providing the ideal opportunity to enact sound protective measures.

Ten countries, led by Senegal and Canada, proposed and fought for consensus on banning retention of seriously overfished North Atlantic shortfin makos, as ICCAT scientists advised. Yet the EU and US refused to give up on exceptions for hundreds of tons of the Endangered species to be landed. ICCAT scientists estimate this population could take four or five decades to recover, even if fishing stops. Lack of consensus allows status quo fishing at unsustainable levels to continue.

“North Atlantic mako depletion is among the world’s most pressing shark conservation crises,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “A clear and simple remedy was within reach. Yet the EU and US put short-term fishing interests above all else and ruined a golden opportunity for real progress. It’s truly disheartening and awful.”

“The EU’s behavior with respect to mako conservation is a travesty. Their obstruction of vital, science-based protections will allow vast fleets from Spain and Portugal to continue to fish these endangered sharks, essentially without limit, and drive valuable populations toward collapse,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust.

On the plus side, ICCAT did adopt groundbreaking new catch limits for blue sharks that represent a first for the world. Science-based limits on landed blue shark tonnage will be established for both the North and South Atlantic.

For shortfin mako populations the fight continues…