Environmental Policy News

World’s Fastest Shark Racing Towards Extinction, But Game-Changing Policies Within Grasp

The heightened extinction risk for one of the ocean’s most iconic sharks is a stark warning that urgently requires a suite of conservation measures to prevent the species being lost.

The appeal follows the announcement by the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that both the Shortfin and Longfin Mako Shark are now classified ‘Endangered’, that is facing ‘a very high risk of extinction in the wild’.

Of particular concern is the Shortfin Mako Shark, the ocean’s fastest fish*, which is facing serious depletion around the globe, including a 60% decline in the Atlantic over about 75 years. Makos are slow to reproduce and are valued in many countries for both meat and fins; however, they are not subject to any international fishing quotas.

The IUCN re-assessments are part of a global project to assess shark population status and trends based on a series of expert workshops and are being funded by the Shark Conservation Fund (SCF). “The new information paints a stark warning – we find ourselves on the precipice of losing these unique species forever,” said Lee Crockett, SCF Director. “The good news is that, with strategic support from SCF, we have the chance to win real protection this year with the right action by governments and fishery management bodies.”

The new mako assessments come ahead of potential game-changer opportunities for their protection this year. In May, world governments will consider listing a record number of seriously at-risk shark and ray species, including makos, on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)*. SCF is supporting an unprecedented push with key countries to gain the two-thirds majority needed for their inclusion.

The Fund is also supporting efforts, via The Shark League, to secure concrete catch limits for mako in the North Atlantic, one of the regions where the species is most at risk. The Shark League is urging the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to ban landing of Shortfin Makos, in line with scientific advice, at its meeting in November. As the European Union’s high seas fleets land the most mako sharks, the Shark League is pressing for EU mako catch limits to be established in the meantime.

“This could be the last chance for some of these species. By the time they are assessed again in 10 years, if trends continue, they could be extinct in the wild, and lost to us all forever,” said Crockett. “Yet, even in the face of this new evidence, there is hope: we can help avert the dire predicament they face if countries act now.”

Story by The Shark Conservation Fund (SCF)

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