Conservationists put the spotlight on the EU for inaction and hypocrisy
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).