ICCAT 2021 Joint Statement in response to Parties’ proposals

Date: June 18, 2021

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The PADI AWARE Foundation — with support from Shark Advocates International (a project of The Ocean Foundation), Shark Trust, Ecology Action Centre, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society International, Sciaena, and Shark Project — appreciates this opportunity to express our views on proposals for addressing the depletion of one of the Atlantic’s most imperiled fish species: the shortfin mako shark.

We congratulate Canada, Senegal, Gabon, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, Chinese Taipei, Guinea-Bissau, and The Gambia for presenting the only ICCAT shortfin mako proposal that includes the vital and urgently needed core elements of the SCRS advice:

  • a North Atlantic retention ban (to minimize mortality and incentivize mako avoidance), and
  • a 2001t South Atlantic TAC (necessary to prevent another crisis).

We hope that the growing number of co-sponsors signals momentum toward adoption at last. Nevertheless, we reiterate our opposition to competing US and EU proposals (specific to North Atlantic makos) that stray dangerously from the SCRS advice. The associated TACs and landings exceptions will unnecessarily extend the multidecadal recovery period and incentivize irresponsible fishing practices.

We appreciate the United States’ interest in:

  • Prohibiting retention “generally”
  • Expanding the adoption of fins naturally attached landing requirements
  • Aligning measures with the most recent biological information available, and
  • Promoting study and modification of longline gear to minimize shark discard mortality.

Whereas science-based size limits and enforceable finning bans are laudable in principle, they are beside the point for a species so depleted that it should not be landed at all. We remain especially troubled by allowances for killing makos that make it to the boat alive; we find these exceptions unacceptable for such a vulnerable and endangered population. Gear modifications can boost recovery but are not on par with a retention ban for addressing an overfishing problem of this magnitude.

We are deeply disappointed by the European Union’s interest in:

  • Allowing mako overfishing to continue for another two years
  • Proposing a TAC that, beyond being risky and ill-advised, fails to account for dead discards
  • Putting off debate on the core element of the SCRS advice (a complete retention ban), and
  • Focusing on release, data collection, and future SCRS advice (while ignoring current advice).

The SCRS has not supported the EU contention that a set of mitigation measures “could be crucial in reducing mortality.” The SCRS has however repeatedly made it clear that a non-retention policy would not only “benefit the stock” but is the most effective immediate conservation action for the population. We fail to see how discussing only data collection and bycatch mitigation measures will “build momentum for dealing with the more challenging issue at the annual meeting.”

Rather, we urge the EU, the US, and all Parties to face, accept, and focus on adoption of the urgent advice for a North Atlantic shortfin mako ban that has been before ICCAT for four years. Please end the delays and secure a brighter future for this extraordinary species now.

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