COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it, including how we communicate, meet and make decisions, yet despite this fishing – and overfishing – continues and so must make efforts to protect shortfin mako sharks and other threatened species.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) won’t be meeting in person this year, but decisions can – and must – still be made. Ahead of ICCAT parties embarking on their 2020 deliberations, the Shark League with our partners brought together supporters with scientists, conservationists and officials in two key regions to update on progress and plan for the next months when ICCAT has another chance to follow the science and prohibit mako catch in the North Atlantic.
Mako Shark Conservation and Opportunities for West African Leadership
West African countries demonstrate increasing shark conservation leadership internationally, and at the 2019 annual ICCAT meeting, Senegal led the effort to establish science-based protections for heavily fished makos, with support from Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, and Liberia.
More than ninety participants from across West Africa joined us on the 1st October for a webinar co-hosted by the Partnership for Coastal and Marine Conservation (PRCM)a coalition working across Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
With Dr Ahmed Senhoury, PRCM Executive Secretary, and Dr Mika Diop, biologist with the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission, setting the scene, marine biologist Dr Fambaye Ngom, with the Oceanographic Research Centre of Dakar-Thiroye (CRODT), detailed impacts of tuna fisheries on the mako population and how international catch is impacting the health of their marine ecosystems and fisheries.
ICCAT scientists recommend a prohibition on catches but of course, international fishing limits must be implemented through domestic regulations.
Mr. Mamadou Seye (Maritimes Fisheries Directorate) Colonel Abba Sonko (CITES Management Authority, Senegal) and Dr Djibril Diouck (Director of National Parks), set out the steps Senegal is taking for mako protection.
Despite such strides, depletion of shark species continues in West Africa with many species at risk of extinction. Achieving sustainable shark mortality while ensuring livelihoods and food security for coastal communities remains a major challenge.
Working across the government departments responsible for fisheries and protecting the marine ecosystems, contributors stressed Senegal’s support for science-based management and conservation.
With Senegal’s leadership and increasing ICCAT participation in the region, there is real potential for West Africa to become a centre of influence for achieving international agreements and reversing shark population declines.
The discussion was lively with participants from research groups and governments across the region underscoring the need to work together to address mako conservation and confirming their support for action at ICCAT.
Make or Break for Makos“ – Notruf für den Kurzflossenmakohai
In stark contrast to Senegal, the EU took a disappointing position at the 2019 ICCAT meeting blocking a science-based proposal with a weak one of its own that would allow catches of endangered mako sharks to continue, and it now looks as if its seeking to do the same this year.
Spain and Portugal – as the main catching countries – can’t be allowed to dictate the approach on their own but this means other influential member states need to step up. It’s not too late as the EU negotiates with other ICCAT parties on the competing proposals on the table. Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, has in the past played an important role in supporting international action and the vibrant conservation community in the country is keen to see this continue.
During a webinar held on 23rd September, – before we knew the disappointing position the EU would take in 2020 – Dr. Iris Ziegler of SHARKPROJECT International was joined by freediving legend Fred Buyle, Ali Hood from SLAM Partner, The Shark Trust and over 100 supporters to see what can be done in Europe while being inspired by clips and stories from Behind the Mask.
As a freediver, Fred Buyle has gone deeper than 100m on a single breath; as a researcher and photographer he has used his talents for conservation. Fred’s photos of makos can be seen on many Shark League publications.
Participants left the call and jumped onto twitter generating a storm of tweets urging the German Government and European Commission to make time for makos.
A Pledge and Path to Save Endangered Mako Sharks
Click here to send a message to the European Commission.