Defenders of Wildlife today petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the shortfin mako shark under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The species has declined dramatically across the world’s oceans because of overfishing and fisheries bycatch.
The shortfin mako is the fastest-swimming shark on record. Commercial fisheries target the species for its valuable meat and fins, and recreational fisheries target it as big-game sport. It is also caught unintentionally in fisheries gear such as longlines and gillnets. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List recently classified the shortfin mako as “endangered,” estimating that in the last 75 years mako sharks have suffered population declines of at least 45%.
Cecilia Diedrich, an attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“It is imperative that the United States acts now to conserve the shortfin mako shark. These sharks are being overfished at an alarming and unsustainable rate while the global community refuses to take meaningful action. We cannot keep overexploiting these top predators vital to healthy ocean ecosystems. The National Marine Fisheries Service must move forward on this Endangered Species Act listing petition to ensure the species receives the protections it needs to survive and recover.”
Jane Davenport, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“Defenders of Wildlife has worked for decades to conserve and protect sharks in the United States and around the world. These long-lived ocean predators are slow to reproduce and slow to recover from overfishing. The shortfin mako shark is one of dozens of shark species whose populations have plummeted to alarming levels. We call upon the National Marine Fisheries Service to make the right decision for science and for conservation and list these sharks under the Endangered Species Act.”
• The shortfin mako shark is a large species found in a wide range of marine habitats. The highly migratory species’ geographical range extends throughout the world’s tropical and temperate ocean waters.
• Because its meat and fins are commercially valuable, the shortfin mako is fished throughout its range as target catch and retained as bycatch in coastal and pelagic fisheries. Overfishing of the species has caused steep population declines in the north and south Atlantic, and somewhat more moderate declines in the north Pacific and Indian oceans.
• Scientists have repeatedly called for retention bans for the shortfin mako shark in the North Atlantic and limits for the South Atlantic, but contracting Parties of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), including the United States, have failed to act.
• The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently assessed the shortfin mako as “endangered” on the Red List of Threatened Species, estimating that the global population has been reduced by at least 45% over the last 75 years.
• Several nations, international convention bodies such as CITES and the CMS and regional fisheries management organizations have taken steps to manage and regulate international trade to reduce catch and bycatch, but more is required. An Endangered Species Act listing will spur conservation at both the domestic and international levels.
• The Endangered Species Act requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the shortfin mako shark as endangered or threatened based on one or a combination of five factors: modification of habitat or range; overutilization; disease or predation; inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and other natural or manmade factors. The shortfin mako shark faces threats under all of these factors.
Defenders of Wildlife and Sharks
• Defenders of Wildlife has worked to protect sharks in the United States and globally for more than two decades. It successfully petitioned the giant manta ray and oceanic whitetip shark for ESA listing and successfully advocated for the listing and other conservation measures of those species during international negotiations at Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Defenders of Wildlife also signed a MoU with the CMS to support and enhance the international work for the conservation of sharks and other marine species.
• The ESA requires that decisions to list species be made solely on the basis of the best available scientific and commercial data. Species may be listed as endangered or threatened under this statute regardless of where they occur globally. Defenders’ petition to list the shortfin mako shark presents the National Marine Fisheries Service with a comprehensive review of the scientific literature and available data on the shark’s status and the threats it faces worldwide.