ICCAT 2021 Panel 4 Intersessional

Date: June 30, 2021

Joint Statement on Mako Sharks

Ecology Action Centre — with support from Shark Advocates International (a project of The Ocean Foundation), Shark Trust, and PADI AWARE — appreciates this opportunity to express our views on protections for Atlantic shortfin makos.

We take this opportunity to register our alarm over the latest ICCAT catch data (PA4_21). In light of the increasingly urgent need to dramatically reduce fishing mortality in the North Atlantic, we note:

  • Three of the top four mako fishing Parties – Spain, Portugal, and the US — report an increase in landings from 2019 to 2020 while 2nd ranked Morocco has failed to report for 2020.
  • Despite the EU’s focus on dead discards, the top two mako fishing EU Member States are not reporting the number of makos discarded dead (or alive).
  • Spanish vessels exceeded a 2020 domestic TAC by more than 500t.
  • Portugal’s landings have increased every year for the last seven years and jumped nearly 20% from 2019 to 2020.
  • Canada – the only Party to implement the SCRS advice for North Atlantic makos domestically – reports a marked decrease in at-vessel mako mortality (64t in 2019 v. 20t in 2020) and a substantial increase in live release.

This serious and ongoing overexploitation of already depleted North Atlantic makos has been allowed to continue because ICCAT met the clear 2017 SCRS advice for a retention ban with a watered down and overly complex management compromise. Four years later, it is truly make or break for makos. Half measures are clearly insufficient for such an inherently vulnerable species and the cost for falling short is increasingly high. We urge Parties to focus on the core of the scientific advice for this exceptionally imperiled population (a complete ban on retention) and recognize it as the essential first step to stem population decline and catalyze future progress toward mako avoidance and survival. Please strive to ensure a ban is included, without exception, as the centerpiece of the consensus proposal for the annual meeting, as proposed by at least eight Parties.

Any mention of tonnage should occur only in preambular text as part of the rationale for the prohibition and bycatch mitigation measures. Such levels should not exceed 300t (for 60% probability of rebuilding by 2070) and should be defined clearly to include discards (in line with SCRS analyses). Including a “TAC” in any operative text risks creating a misimpression of fishing opportunities, leading to unconstructive negotiations that are likely to end in a dangerously inadequate measure.

We appreciate the focus on action for the North Atlantic yet stress the importance of establishing a ≤2002t South Atlantic mako TAC (through a separate proposal, if necessary) to prevent a similar disaster for that population. 

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