MEPs Urge EU Support for Protecting Endangered Mako Sharks

Date: May 20, 2021

Press Release available in French and Spanish

Cross Party Coalition Calls on EU Commissioner to Change Course and Accept Scientific Advice

Brussels. 20 May 2021. 41 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are calling on the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, to ensure EU support for protecting endangered shortfin mako sharks through the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). In a letter sent today, in preparation for upcoming ICCAT negotiations, the MEPs request that the EU stop blocking and begin supporting a mako retention ban long recommended by scientists to save the North Atlantic population.

“We are troubled that the European Commission has not only failed to champion the urgent scientific advice for endangered North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks, but that – with excessively lenient counterproposals – has served as the primary obstacle to an international agreement that could end overfishing and begin the long journey to population recovery,” said MEP Caroline Roose from France.

Shortfin makos are particularly valuable oceanic sharks, sought for meat, fins, and sport. Makos are fished by many nations yet not subject to international fishing quotas. ICCAT scientists have advised since 2017 a ban on landing North Atlantic shortfin makos. The EU ranks first among ICCAT Parties for landings from this particularly depleted mako population, taking 62% in 2019. 

“The shortfin mako is remarkable for its importance as a predator and its vulnerability to overfishing,” said MEP Grace O’Sullivan from Ireland. “Makos’ exceptionally slow growth and reproductive rates make heeding fisheries management advice all the more urgent.”

In 2019, the EU helped win the listing of mako sharks on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which mandates that exports and high seas landings be sourced from demonstrably sustainable fisheries. An EU expert panel concluded in December that Member States should no longer be allowing shortfin mako exports or landings from the North Atlantic.

“Without decisive ICCAT action in the coming months, the North Atlantic shortfin mako population is at risk for a complete collapse that will increase harm to fishermen and the ecosystem as a whole,” said MEP Francisco Guerreiro from Portugal. “It is imperative that we reverse mako declines immediately to preserve economic and ecological benefits for future generations.”

Canada has been leading a multinational effort to secure science based ICCAT mako limits. Opposition, primarily from the EU, has led to repeated delays, inaction, and continued North Atlantic overfishing. Both Parties have introduced mako proposals for the negotiations surrounding a special ICCAT session in July.

“We appreciate these MEPs’ engagement in the mako crisis and call on the Commissioner to heed their requests for an amended EU position that aligns with scientific advice from ICCAT as well as EU obligations under CITES,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “Such action is the key to a brighter future for makos, but time is running out.”

Media contact: Patricia Roy email:, Tel: +34 696 905 907.

Notes to Editors: Shark Trust, Ecology Action Centre, Project AWARE, and Shark Advocates International, 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.

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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