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Fishery managers agree groundbreaking safeguards for CITES-listed, South Atlantic population

This post is also available in: Français (French)

Faro, Portugal. November 21, 2022.  The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) today agreed the world’s first population-wide fishing quota for highly vulnerable shortfin mako sharks. ICCAT set a South Atlantic catch limit (to cover landings as well as mortality from discarding) within the level recommended by scientists in 2019 and made allocations to individual fishing Parties that are calculated to cut their landings of the Endangered species by 40-60%. The agreement stems from a more precautionary proposal by the European Union and United Kingdom to extend a 2021 ban on particularly depleted North Atlantic shortfin makos to the South Atlantic. Pushback from Namibia and South Africa resulted in negotiations for short-term limits instead.

Continue reading First International Mako Shark Quota Adopted


Northwest Atlantic fishing nations ban retention of longest-lived vertebrate

Porto, September 23, 2022. Today, the mysterious Greenland shark – thought to have the longest lifespan of any vertebrate – was granted new, historic protections by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) on the final day of its annual meeting. The US and Canada, with support from the UK and the EU, proposed and secured a science-based ban on retaining the species from international waters.

“The incredibly slow growing, long-lived, and wide-ranging Greenland shark clearly deserves the precautionary international protection that was agreed today,” said Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International, who testified in support of the proposed ban on behalf of the Shark League coalition. “We thank the United States and Canada for their steadfast efforts over several years to secure science-based safeguards for this extraordinary animal and we urge all Parties to adopt similar protections for their waters.”

Scientists have estimated that Greenland sharks may live 400 years and don’t reproduce until about age 150, leaving populations exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing. In 2018, the NAFO Scientific Council recommended a complete ban on retaining Greenland sharks, along with measures to collect information and minimize incidental mortality associated with “bycatch.” That year, the US and EU secured catch reporting requirements and a partial ban (on targeting the species in international waters).

The new measure bans Greenland shark fishing, retention, transshipment, and landing (part or whole) and applies to international waters of the Northwest Atlantic. Exceptions are possible where domestic bans on discarding fish apply (Iceland, Norway, Faroe Islands, and Greenland), but only for dead Greenland sharks captured incidentally; commercial profit from such landings is prohibited. Parties also underscored previous commitments to report on efforts to minimize incidental catches and mortality of Greenland sharks. NAFO scientists will continue their work to identify times and areas where Greenland shark bycatch is high and will provide additional conservation advice in 2024.

“As we celebrate this important shark conservation advance, we encourage NAFO Parties to follow up promptly with required reports on Greenland shark catches and bycatch mitigation,” said Shannon Arnold, marine policy coordinator for Ecology Action Centre. “This information is essential to the next key steps of identifying hotspots and changing fishing practices to minimize harm.”

Greenland sharks are associated with high latitudes of the North Atlantic and Arctic waters at depths to 3000 meters, but specimens have been reported as far south as Belize. Growing to more than six meters (21 feet), they were heavily fished in the early 1990s for liver oil. Today, Greenland sharks are primarily caught incidentally and sometimes used for their meat in Iceland and Greenland.

Media contact: Sonja Fordham email: sonja@sharkadvocates.org Tel: +1 202 436 1468.

Notes to Editors: The Shark League is a coalition of Shark Advocates International (a project of The Ocean Foundation), Ecology Action Centre, Shark Trust, and PADI AWARE Foundation formed with support from the Shark Conservation Fund to advance science-based shark policies for the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

NAFO Contracting Parties include Canada, Cuba, Denmark (in respect to the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, France (in respect to Saint Pierre et Miquelon), Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the US.

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) 2022 Position Statement: Skates & Sharks


Fishing and Trade of Shortfin Mako Sharks Banned in Country Ranked Second for Regional Landings

The government of Morocco has announced a national prohibition on the fishing, storage, and trade of shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus), in line with a broader measure agreed in November 2021 through the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Although the hard-won ICCAT ban could be weakened after two years (due to EU insistence), Morocco’s ban is set to remain in place for five. 

Continue reading Morocco Announces Major Mako Protection


International fishery managers agree to historic yet potentially short-term North Atlantic ban

The Press Release is also available in: Français (French), Español (Spanish)

Madrid, Spain. November 23, 2021. Conservationists are heralding a hard-fought ban on retention of North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks adopted today by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), as a first step toward reversing the decline of the seriously overfished population. The ban forms the core of a long-term international rebuilding plan, the first in the world for this exceptionally valuable, globally threatened species. ICCAT fishery managers agreed that, in 2022 and 2023, all retention of North Atlantic shortfin makos will be prohibited, an action that ICCAT scientists have advised since 2017. The EU – which has long taken the lion’s share of mako catch – insisted, however, on including a complicated formula that may offer a way for some Parties to resume landings after the reprieve.

Continue reading PRESS RELEASE: Endangered Mako Sharks Get A Break


To: Heads of Delegations, International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)

This week’s ICCAT meeting is the fifth one where Parties grapple with scientists’ warnings about serious overfishing of North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks. Inadequate management responses to the associated advice to ban all retention from this population risks a collapse of this valuable resource.

Continue reading Open Letter to ICCAT from West and Central African Scientists


Top Priority: Protect North Atlantic Shortfin Mako Sharks

The 27th Regular Meeting of The International Commission For The Conservation Of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) – 15-23 Nov – is the fifth consecutive annual meeting during which Parties will grapple with ICCAT scientists’ advice for reversing the dangerous decline of North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks.

Conservation action to prevent collapse of the exceptionally slow growing, seriously overfished North Atlantic shortfin mako population is long overdue and increasingly urgent.

Continue reading ICCAT 2021: Shark League Position Statement


International Tuna Fishery Managers Resume Negotiations That Could Result in Overdue, Historic Protection

The Press Release is available in: English, French and Spanish

PRESS RELEASE, Madrid, Spain. November 15, 2021. Conservationists are focused this week on the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the possibility of a new agreement to protect seriously overfished North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks. Since 2017, scientists have recommended a ban on retention as the most effective immediate step toward reversing decline and rebuilding the population over about 50 years. Such a ban has been repeatedly proposed by many ICCAT Parties, led most recently by Canada, Senegal, Gabon, and the UK. The main obstacles have been the EU and the US whose competing proposals for exceptions have prevented consensus for years.

Continue reading Press Release: Make or Break for Endangered Atlantic Mako Sharks


At its biannual meeting in mid-October, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Advisory Committee for the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) discussed agenda items for ICCAT’s 2021 annual meeting in November, including the continued overfishing of North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks. Representatives from multiple conservation organizations made the case for immediate mako protection. All of the testimony delivered in the public comment session came from conservationists urging a shortfin mako retention ban for the North Atlantic.

Continue reading U.S. Voices for Makos