Source: The Guardian
The species, mainly caught as bycatch but also prized by sports fishermen, is facing an alarming decline in numbers
Conservationists accused the EU and the US at negotiations of Atlantic fishing nations this week of blocking urgently needed plans to protect the world’s fastest shark species.
The strength and speed of the shortfin mako, which can swim up to 43mph, makes it a target for sports fishermen, particularly in the US, while its highly prized meat and fins have led to the shark being overfished globally – and dangerously so in the north Atlantic.
The population could take five decades to recover even if fishing were to stop immediately, according to scientists at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a fisheries management organisation.
The majority of mako caught in the north Atlantic in 2019 were landed by EU vessels, mainly from Spain and Portugal followed by Morocco. Most mako sharks are bycatch – accidentally caught by boats hunting different species.
Last year, international governments voted to regulate trade in the endangered species, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, after the EU co-sponsored a proposal.
But there was no outright ban, and this week Britain – in its first official act as an independent member of ICCAT – backed a proposal by Canada for such a ban. The UK said it was extremely disappointed that no agreement had been reached in 2019.
The EU and the US, however, refused to back the ban, saying it would not in itself stop mako mortality as bycatch. Each suggested separate proposals that would allow boats to continue to land mako in certain circumstances. Given the lack of consensus, the ICCAT committee chairman said he had no choice but to postpone any decision on mako catches until 2021.