Shortfin Mako Shark Clears Hurdle Toward U.S. Endangered Species List

Date: April 15, 2021

As Listing Petition Advances, Conservationists Repeat Call for Immediate North Atlantic Ban

Washington, D.C., April 15, 2021. The shortfin mako shark is a step closer to listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) as the Biden Administration prepares for international negotiations on protecting the exceptionally depleted North Atlantic population. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) today announced its “90-day finding” that a Defenders of Wildlife petition presents substantial information indicating ESA listing may be warranted. NMFS will commence a comprehensive status review at the same time that the agency considers its 2021 stance on a science-based international North Atlantic shortfin mako ban that has been stalled for years, due largely to U.S. opposition.

“North Atlantic shortfin mako depletion is among the world’s most pressing shark conservation crises, and the U.S. is critical to achieving the multilateral ban needed to stem the decline,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “While in recent years the U.S. has been an obstacle to international Atlantic mako protections, the Biden Administration’s commitment to science and today’s filing – which highlights makos’ exceptional susceptibility to overfishing — give us hope that the government will change course and heed scientific advice in time to help save the beleaguered North Atlantic population from collapse.”

Scientists estimate that North Atlantic shortfin makos could take five decades to recover, even if fishing stops immediately. They began recommending a complete retention ban for this population in 2017. Canada and Senegal, with support from 15 other nations, have been leading an effort to secure the recommended ban under the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) since 2019. Competing proposals from the U.S. and European Union have prevented consensus.

Makos are valued for meat, fins, and sport. They are fished by many nations yet not subject to international quotas. The U.S. has ranked fourth for North Atlantic shortfin mako landings in recent years. Makos are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

ICCAT mako negotiations resume in May with an eye to reaching agreement in July. A final determination on ESA listing is due in January 2022.

Shark Advocates International (SAI) is a project of The Ocean Foundation dedicated to securing science-based shark policies. SAI, Shark Trust, Ecology Action Centre, and Project AWARE, with support from the Shark Conservation Fund, formed the Shark League to improve ICCAT policies.

Media contact:  Patricia Roy: +34 696 905 907,

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