Like many sharks, the shortfin mako is particularly vulnerable to overexploitation. It is a common bycatch species in the pelagic longline fishery in Atlantic Canada, and population trends based on historical catch rates between the years of 1971 to 2002 have shown declines of 50% or greater.
- Shortfin mako sharks are speed demons! They are thought to be the fastest species of shark, capable of swimming up to 35 km/h
- They are also total show offs, often making spectacular leaps from the water. Unfortunately, this means that these acrobats are often targeted for sport fishing as they can put up quite the fight on the end of a fishing line.
- They can live up to 32 years. Their young feed on unfertilized eggs while they are developing inside their mother and are born live, between 4 and 25 at a time.
- Like the porbeagle shark, the mako can also regulate it’s body temperature, which allows it to keep warm in Canada’s colder waters
- Shortfin makos mostly like to eat squid and fish but can sometimes be a bit more adventurous and go for turtles, porpoises and seabirds as well.
As with most sharks, Canadian management does a poor job protecting the shortfin mako. This species is ‘managed’ under a non-restrictive catch guideline of 100 tonnes. Not only is this guideline not enforced, but it is not based on any scientific justification. It also does not account for discard mortality – the number of sharks that are killed at sea are never counted at the docks.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which also manages many shark species in the Atlantic, recommended in 2005, and again in 2007, that member states reduce fishing mortality for North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks. In 2008, the ICCAT stock assessment indicated that the shortfin mako stock is likely overfished and experiencing overfishing. The 2008 SCRS ecological risk assessment assessed them as a species at the highest risk to overfishing even at low levels.
Instead of setting meaningful restrictions on the number of sharks that longliners can kill, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has set a ‘guideline’ that is high enough not to inconvenience the fishery at all. Is this a reasonable way to manage a vulnerable shark population?
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