Conservation groups criticize US, EU for ICCAT inaction on shortfin mako sharks

Published on
November 27, 2019

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas ended its annual meeting on Monday, 25 November, with members unable to approve a recovery plan conservationists believe is essential for the long-term survival of shortfin mako sharks.

At least two groups pinned the blame on the United States and the European Union. During the weeklong meeting in Mallorca, Spain, it was decided that the commission would continue to use guidelines passed two years ago that some fear will lead to further population declines.

It also means commission leaders will have to address the issue during next year’s annual meeting.

“Senegal, Canada, and eight other co-sponsors submitted a science-based proposal to conserve the stock, but weaker proposals from the European Union and the United States departed from the scientific advice,” Pew Charitable Trusts International Fisheries Team Officer Grantly Galland said. “Under the measure ultimately adopted by the commission, the stock will not recover in the next 50 years. This clearly does not constitute effective or precautionary management and calls into question ICCAT’s ability to conserve the sharks under its jurisdiction.”

NOAA Fisheries lists the Atlantic shortfin mako as being both overfished and subject to overfishing. In March, the U.S. agency announced a policy that required recreational fishermen to release all male makos less than 71 inches long and females less than 83 inches.

Commercial fishermen in the U.S. can only keep shortfin makos if they are “found dead at haulback.”

According to Ecology Action Centre, a Canadian organization, shortfin makos ranked at the top of the list among pelagic shark stocks most vulnerable to ICCAT fisheries.

“North Atlantic mako depletion is among the world’s most pressing shark conservation crises,” Shark Advocates International President Sonja Fordham said. “A clear and simple remedy was within reach. Yet the E.U. and U.S. put short-term fishing interests above all else and ruined a golden opportunity for real progress. It’s truly disheartening and awful.”

However, the leader of the E.U.’s fishing organization said in a statement that maintaining the status-quo was important for longline fishermen in Europe.

“It is vital for this fleet to keep retaining on board individuals that arrive dead to the vessel in order to limit the socio-economic impacts of the non-retention policy,”  Europeche President Javier Garat said.

Photo courtesy of wildestanimal/Shutterstock

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