One of the ocean’s fastest predator, the shortfin mako is prized by recreational anglers for their game. Sometimes skittish, but always fast, powerful and aerobatic these large highly migratory sharks are challenging to hook, fight and land. For many years big game anglers would target makos fishing the mid-shore and offshore waters in the spring, summer and fall; however those days are now over.
Mako Fishing Is Now Closed
We are all looking forward to the 2022 season; however, big game anglers will not have is mako fishing season. The mako population is and has been in decline. To reduce fishing pressure and support the rebuilding process… There is a Two Year Moratorium on the harvest of N. Atlantic Shortfin Mako Sharks.
This news will not surprise most shark anglers. The mako fishery has been down from some time. Let’s dive into some shortfin mako facts to learn how we get here and where we are going.
Fast – Powerful – Aerobatic
Stark Facts On The Shortfin Mako
Did you know? The majority of makos sharks caught are juveniles, ages 3-10. A fishery which captures before maturity is set up for failure.
Did you know? If mako shark fishing was closed / stopped immediately it would take about 50 years for the population to recover.
Shortfin Mako Biology
Mako sharks are very slow growing and can live up to 35 years old. They have late age maturity and low fecundity. Their growth, size and age at sexual maturity are very different between males and females. Male mako sharks reach 50% maturity at about 8 years which is approximately 71″ weighing 140#. Female mako sharks reach 50% maturity at about 21 years which is approximately 110″ weighing 600#. Then they only produce 12 pups on average every two to three years.
The Mako Stock Status & Management Measures
The 2012 International Commission or the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) Shortfin Mako Shark Stock Assessment overestimated stock size and underestimated fishing mortality which lead to and allowed steep stock declines from 2010 to 2017.
In 2017, the updated assessment showed the stock was overfished with over fishing occurring. This was the time for strict management measures. ICCAT recommendations were to promote live release of makos caught across all fisheries and established minimum sizes of 71” for males and 83” for females,
In 2018, there was emergency action; increased recreational minimum size from 54” to 83”, mandatory release of all live specimens in commercial longline fishery, Retention only of dead animals
In 2019, Amendment 11 to the Atlantic HMS Fisheries Management Plan introduced new measures; recreational anglers must have HMS permit with the shark endorsement, mandatory circle hook use and sex-specific minimum size limits (71” for males, 83” for females)
The 2019 update was the same, overfished with overfishing occurring. Here’s some stark facts pulled from the ICCAT 2019 Shortfin Mako Shark Stock Assessment Update Meeting… which are based on future productivity assumptions for the stock.
- The mako shark stock is in bad shape and it will continue to decline until 2035 even with no fishing (closed season)!
- A ZERO total allowable catch will allow the stock to be rebuilt by 2045 with a 53% probability.
- A 300 ton catch or less ends overfishing and achieves 60% probability of recover by 2070.
- A 500 ton catch results in a 52% probability of rebuilding the stock by 2070.
Who & How Are Makos Managed?
The International Commission or the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) was established in 1972 and has 53 member nations with three delegates from each assisted by experts and advisors. On an international level ICCAT is responsible for the study of the populations of tuna and tuna-like fishes as well as other species exploited in tuna fishing in the Convention area. The Convention area is shown below in blue. ICCAT regulates fisheries with recommendations which are binding.
ICCAT conducts research and stock assessments on bluefin, yellowfin, albacore, bigeye, skipjack, swordfish, blue marlin, white marlin, and pelagic sharks (blue shark, shortfin mako, probeagle). They set international quotas and monitor international landing and fishery statistics.
NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Management Division has jurisdiction in the US federal waters in US Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Their responsibilities are to set domestic regional quotas (some based on ICCAT), monitor landings and to report statistics to ICCAT.
- Develop and implement fishery management plans in cooperation with the HMS advisory panel
- Implement domestic requirements of ICCAT and support international negotiations for ICCAT, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
- Issue permits for commercial and recreational HMS fishing and scientific research.
- Monitor commercial and recreational catches to ensure compliance with domestic and international quotas and/or catch limits.
Here’s a short write up from The Fisherman on the mako closure…
Data Source Credits: Dr. Jeff Kneebone, Research Scientist