The governments of Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, the European Union and its Member States, Gabon, Gambia, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Palau, Samoa, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Togo have proposed the shortfin mako shark and the look-alike species longfin mako shark for a CITES Appendix II listing.
A CITES Appendix II listing will ensure that international trade is supplied by sustainably managed, accurately recorded fisheries that are not detrimental to the status of the wild populations they exploit, with the management of mako sharks prioritized throughout their range.
Mako sharks meet the CITES Appendix II listing criteria, with declines from 60-96% worldwide. As many as one million mako sharks are caught each year; an unsustainable number driven by high international demand for their fins and meat and inadequate management.
In the early 2000s, mako sharks comprised approximately 2.2% of all shark fins in international trade. By 2015, the proportion of mako shark fins in this market had declined to 0.2-1.2% of all shark species represented. These declines in documented trade could be due to a number of factors, including sampling differences in studies that analyze products in trade, but given little to no improvement in global mako shark management in this time frame and a continued increase in fishing pressure, these significant declines in market composition should be considered as additional evidence of significant mako declines globally.
Overfished and under-managed
Mako sharks have long been highlighted as species in need of better management. Since the mid-1990s, their catch has increased dramatically, and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) have largely failed to put in place management measures that would ensure a sustainable fishery.
Despite being listed on the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) a decade ago and heavily caught in RFMOs, there has been limited management progress for these species.
Even with a stock assessment showing population declines that exceed the CITES Appendix II listing criteria, ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) hasn’t met the clear advice to prohibit mako retention in the North Atlantic, and reduce mortality elsewhere. This means that overfishing is likely to continue in the Atlantic. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission has shown steady declines in catch rates of mako sharks over the past decade and yet no management action has been taken, despite their high vulnerability and susceptibility to overexploitation.
Why is Listing on CITES Important?
A CITES Appendix II listing for the shortfin mako and the look-alike longfin mako shark will ensure that international trade is supplied by sustainably managed, accurately recorded fisheries that are not detrimental to the status of the wild populations they exploit, with the management of mako sharks prioritized throughout their range.
Given the serious declines in mako shark populations and lack of action globally, a CITES Appendix II listing is clearly needed to manage the trade driving the declines of these species and prevent mako sharks from being fished out of our oceans completely.