Press Statement: EU and US Impede Momentum Toward Vital Mako Shark Protections

Date: July 8, 2021

Decision on North Atlantic ICCAT ban – championed by Canada, Gabon, Senegal, and the UK – stalled again

London, UK. July 8, 2021. Conservationists are deeply unhappy that the European Union and the United States once again served as the main obstacles to agreement on urgently needed mako shark protections during this week’s special Committee negotiations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Canada and seven other Parties proposed a ban on retaining seriously overfished North Atlantic shortfin makos, as scientists have long advised. The EU and US refuse to go along and continue to insist on exceptions for continuing to land the endangered species, despite receiving only opposition in response. The resulting delay in consensus allows unsustainable fishing on this shared population to continue. ICCAT scientists estimate recovery could take five decades, even if fishing were to stop immediately.

“The depletion of North Atlantic makos is one the world’s most egregious yet solvable shark conservation crises,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, a non-profit project of The Ocean Foundation and founding member of the Shark League coalition. “Focused on short-term economic interests, the EU and the US have repeatedly thwarted science-based mako protections that are vital to reversing serious, perhaps irreparable, population decline. This obstruction is especially disheartening given the growing number of countries and conservationists from around the world that support the ban as a clear, straightforward remedy that is exceptionally simple to monitor and enforce.”

Shortfin makos are particularly valuable sharks sought for meat, fins, and sport. Slow growth makes them exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing. Makos are fished by fleets from many nations yet not subject to international fishing quotas.

Fast facts on North Atlantic shortfin makos:

  • Spain, Morocco, Portugal, and the US (in that order) are the highest-ranking countries for landings.
  • EU Member States, led by Spain, were responsible for 74% of landings reported for 2020.
  • The EU claims concern about makos discarded dead to argue against the ban yet does not report its vessels’ discards.
  • The US is the only ICCAT Party proposing allowances for continued landing of makos that make it to the boat alive.
  • US recreational landings increased from 2019 to 2020 by an estimated 13 metric tons.
  • Canada is the only North Atlantic country to unilaterally ban retention, as scientists advise.

Canada introduced the ban proposal this week on behalf of its cosponsors: Gabon, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, Senegal, Taiwan, Guinea-Bissau, and The Gambia. They were supported on the floor by Norway, Japan, and Algeria. Talks are expected to continue over the coming months with a goal to agree a conservation plan at the annual meeting in November.  

Media contact: Patricia Roy email: patricia@communicationsinc.co.uk, Tel: +34 696 905 907.

Notes to Editors: Shark Advocates International is a project of The Ocean Foundation dedicated to securing science-based policies for sharks and rays. The Shark Trust is a UK charity working to safeguard the future of sharks through positive change. Ecology Action Centre promotes sustainable, ocean-based livelihoods, and marine conservation in Canada and internationally. PADI AWARE Foundation is a publicly funded non-profit organization with a mission to drive local action for global ocean conservation. These groups, with support from the Shark Conservation Fund, formed the Shark League to advance regional shark and ray conservation.

ICCAT is responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas. ICCAT has 52 Contracting Parties, including the European Union. ICCAT scientists updated the status of Atlantic shortfin mako sharks in 2019.

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