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Shortfin and longfin mako sharks were listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in August 2019. CITES Parties will soon be required to demonstrate that mako exports are sourced from legal, sustainable fisheries.

At their annual meeting in November, member governments of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), all of which are CITES Parties, will consider fishing restrictions to protect shortfin makos in the North Atlantic. Earlier this year, ICCAT scientists underscored previous warnings that this population is continuing to decline from serious overfishing, and reiterated their advice for a full ban on retention.

The Shark League coalition has appealed to fisheries and environment authorities in all ICCAT Parties to work together to ensure this advice is immediately heeded, in line with government obligations under both ICCAT and CITES. The ICCAT Parties that co-proposed the CITES listing for makos, including the EU, have a responsibility to lead in these efforts. So far, however, only one Party – Senegal – has stepped up to propose a mako ban.


Source: The Guardian

Author: Karen McVeigh

A record number of countries voted to restrict fishing of mako sharks in an effort to protect the endangered species.

A record number of countries have voted to protect the world’s fastest shark from extinction in a move welcomed by conservationists as a “wake up call” for fishing nations who have ignored the endangered species’ decline.

In Geneva this week, governments voted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to regulate the international trade in both species of mako shark – long and short fin – in addition to 16 vulnerable species of sharks and rays.

Mako sharks, the “cheetahs of the ocean”, can reach speeds of up to 43mph. They are overfished worldwide, but the shortfin mako is considered especially vulnerable in the North Atlantic. EU vessels, mainly Spanish and Portuguese, were responsible for 65% of all reported catches of shortfin makos in the North Atlantic from January to June in 2018, according to the Shark Trust, and have not been subject to any limit on catch.

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Makos, Wedgefishes, and Giant Guitarfishes listed under CITES with support from more than 100 countries

Conservation groups are praising today’s confirmation that all species of Wedgefishes, Giant Guitarfishes, and Mako Sharks will be added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The listings mandate that countries track exports as well as high seas take, and demonstrate that internationally traded products from these species are legally sourced from sustainable fisheries.

“Today’s decisions offer promise of a brighter future for these highly threatened shark and ray species, as international trade has been a major factor in depletion of their slow growing populations,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation. “CITES listing can help end unsustainable use of Makos, Wedgefishes, and Giant Guitarfishes by prompting improved trade data and much-needed limits on exploitation, while complementing other conservation commitments. As fishing is the main threat to sharks and rays, it’s essential that countries’ CITES representatives work with their national fisheries agency counterparts to ensure that the new obligations are carried out over the coming months.”

Shortfin Makos, exceptionally valuable and vulnerable oceanic sharks, are at risk from targeted and incidental fishing driven by demand for meat and fins. A lack of limits on take is leading to overfishing and a worldwide decreasing trend. Both the Shortfin Mako and the rarer Longfin Mako Shark are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

The North Atlantic offers the clearest case of Shortfin Mako overfishing and decline. In 2019, scientists associated with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) reported that North Atlantic Shortfin Mako catches need to be cut by roughly an order of magnitude (~3000 to ~300 tonnes per year) to give the population a decent (60%) chance of recovering within five decades. Taking into account incidental mortality, ICCAT scientists are recommending a complete ban on North Atlantic Shortfin Mako retention.

“Considering that Spain leads the world in Mako Shark landings, we’re encouraged that the European Union co-sponsored the proposal to list Makos under CITES,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “We urge the EU to underscore this commitment through proposals to immediately ban North Atlantic Shortfin Mako retention and establish concrete catch limits to ensure Mako landings from all other oceans are sustainable. As virtually all fishing countries are CITES Parties, we’ll be watching for support for such Mako limits at regional fisheries bodies around the world, starting with ICCAT in November.“

Wedgefishes and Giant Guitarfishes, collectively known as Rhino Rays (after their pointy snouts), are considered the world’s most threatened marine fishes. All but one of these 16 shark-like ray species have been classified as Critically Endangered on IUCN Red List.  Their fins are among the most valuable in the global shark fin trade. The coastal fisheries that target or retain Rhino Rays as bycatch are poorly monitored, essentially unregulated, and increasingly intense.

“Rhino Rays are seriously threatened by demand for fins and food, but these extraordinary species have the potential to offer long-term, sustainable benefits as key attractions for ecotourism, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Ian Campbell, Associate Director for Project AWARE. “We are deeply grateful to the many divers who joined us in voicing support for the CITES listings. We now look forward to working with this network and our other partners toward ensuring prompt and full implementation of the international conservation commitments made today.”

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

Additional information: www.globalsharksraysinitiative.org/news-publicationswww.sharkleague.orgwww.redlist.org

Download press release here


The lack of timely, detailed reporting of national shark catches and management is a significant hindrance to ICCAT’s conservation of shark populations.

As scientists highlight the continued decline of overfished Atlantic mako sharks, we are calling on all ICCAT Parties to meet their obligation to report on catch data, including discards, and the status of national observer programs by the end of July.

As ICCAT is due this year to evaluate the limited agreement in 2017 to narrow the conditions under which North Atlantic shortfin makos can be landed, it is essential that Parties also make available information about how these restrictions have been implemented nationally.

Read our letter here.


London. 24 June, 2019.  A new report shows that the overfished North Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark population is continuing to decline and needs not only immediate protection but several decades to recover. Based on new projections for mako populations, scientists associated with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) amplified previous warnings and recommended a North Atlantic ban on retention. Because of depletion to date and an exceptionally low reproductive rate, this population is predicted to continue to decline for another fifteen years before rebuilding can begin.

“Shortfin makos are among the most vulnerable and valuable sharks taken on the high seas, and yet fishery managers have continually put populations at outrageously high risk, allowing serious overfishing year after year,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation. “The dire state of North Atlantic makos represents a conservation emergency that calls for immediate retention bans.”

The Shortfin Mako – the world’s fastest shark — is sought for meat, fins, and sport, but most fishing nations have yet to impose basic limits on catch. Scientists have pushed the earliest possibility of North Atlantic population recovery to 2045, five years later than predicted just two years ago. This scenario has a 53% chance if all mortality is ended. If annual Shortfin Mako catches from across the North Atlantic (including those discarded dead) are cut from recent levels (~3000t) to below 300t in 2020, recovery will likely take 50 years (60% probability).

Fleets from the European Union (EU), primarily Spain, take more makos than any other ICCAT Party and are not subject to any limits on catch. Spain will host the annual ICCAT meeting where the scientists’ advice for makos will be considered. In the meantime, the EU is co-sponsoring a proposal (for decision in August) to list mako sharks on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which would obligate Parties to regulate exports based on determinations that products are legally and sustainably sourced.

“The EU is rightfully asking all fishing countries to ensure the sustainability of their mako catches and yet has failed in the face of repeated scientific advice to set basic fishing quotas for the species, all while taking by far the greatest share,” said Ali Hood, Shark Trust, Director of Conservation. “It is beyond time for the EU to end this hypocrisy and step up with the complete Shortfin Mako ban needed to prevent an even greater disaster.”

Scientists also flagged significant risk that South Atlantic Shortfin Makos will follow a similar path. They recommend that ICCAT establish a catch limit at or below recent minimum levels (~2,000 t).

Media contact: Patricia Roy, email: patricia@communicationsinc.co.uk, telephone: +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. Project AWARE® is a global movement focused on connecting ocean adventures with the purpose of marine conservation for a return to a clean and healthy ocean. Ecology Action Centre promotes sustainable, ocean-based livelihoods, and marine conservation in Canada and internationally. These groups, with support from the Shark Conservation Fund, formed the Shark League of the Atlantic and Mediterranean to advance responsible regional shark and ray conservation policies (www.sharkleague.org).

The recently updated ICCAT assessment for Shortfin Mako Sharks is posted here: https://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/Docs/2019/REPORTS/2019_SMA_SA_ENG.pdf

Mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus) are valued for meat, fins, and sport. This highly migratory species is fished by many countries. Female shortfin makos mature at 18 and usually have 10-18 pups every three years after a 15-18-month gestation. A 2012 Ecological Risk Assessment found makos exceptionally vulnerable to Atlantic pelagic longline fisheries. Earlier this year, the IUCN Shark Specialist Group classified the Shortfin Mako as Globally Endangered based on the IUCN Red List criteria.

Studies show makos released alive from longlines have a 75% chance of surviving; a ban on retention could therefore be effective. Scientists note that additional measures, including fishing area closures, gear restrictions, and best practices for handling could help the population recover.

ICCAT is responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas. ICCAT has 53 Contracting Parties, including the European Union. 

Countries reporting 2018 catches of North Atlantic Shortfin Makos include (in order of magnitude): EU (Spain & Portugal), Morocco, US, Japan, Korea, Belize, Canada, and Mexico. EU fishing vessels are responsible for 65% of reported catches of North Atlantic shortfin makos from January through June 2018.

ICCAT scientists first recommended a North Atlantic mako prohibition in 2017 when they estimated the population had a 54% chance of recovering by 2040 if catches were cut to zero. Instead, ICCAT mandated only that North Atlantic makos brought to boat alive be carefully released, unless the country has imposed a minimum size limit or a discard ban. Dead makos can be still be landed by boats under 12 meters, and by larger vessels under certain conditions for monitoring catch and reporting data. The 2017 measure fell far short of scientific advice. Moreover, most Parties have failed to fully implement even these half-measures for their vessels.

ICCAT has adopted bans on retaining other shark species taken in tuna fisheries, including the bigeye thresher and oceanic whitetip.



The Shark Specialist Group (SSG) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released updated Red List assessments for more than 50 species of sharks and rays. Of particular concern is the Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) whose global classification has changed from Vulnerable to Endangered. Shortfin mako sharks are particularly overfished in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. The SSG is recommending that mako landings be prohibited, which aligns with commitments made by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and scientific advice for the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Spain’s high seas fleets take more makos than another other country, but its catches outside the Mediterranean are unlimited and there are no international mako quotas. The Shark League is urging ICCAT Parties, including the EU, to ban mako landings, and GFCM Parties to implement the Mediterranean mako ban at the national level.


The new Red List Assessments for Australian and oceanic sharks can be found at www.iucnredlist.org

Species classified as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List are considered threatened with extinction. The Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the Longfin Mako (Isurus paucus) have moved from Vulnerable to Endangered classifications, signalling a higher risk of extinction. This change, however, is considered “non-genuine” in IUCN terminology, meaning that it is based on new information not available during the previous assessment.


Conservationists Highlight Shortcomings at Convention on Migratory Species Shark Meetings

Monaco, December 13, 2018. Most countries are not living up to shark and ray protection commitments made under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), according to conservationists. A comprehensive review released today by Shark Advocates International (SAI), Sharks Ahead, documents national and regional actions for 29 shark and ray species listed under CMS from 1999 to 2014.

Continue reading New Report Shows Most Countries Are Falling Short On Commitments To Protect Sharks and Rays