“We are increasingly concerned that efforts to develop regional conservation plans are not keeping pace with the depletion of our seas and the collapsing populations of shortfin makos in the North Atlantic,” said Alejandra Goyenechea, senior international counsel at Defenders of Wildlife. “Half-measured or overly-generalized proposals which don’t follow the established science aren’t enough given the precarious situation of these sharks. Once again, the United States has put such a plan on the table with its pitch to ICCAT. The European Union’s is arguably worse ‒ it openly greenlights overfishing for another two years.”

Washington, DC

This week, the more than 50 member nations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) ‒ the entity responsible for the management of Atlantic tuna, and by-catch species including sharks ‒ began meeting to attempt to agree on the best option for protecting the endangered North Atlantic shortfin mako.  

Member countries acknowledge the dire situation the species is facing, but the process towards any consensus has been slow, even as time is running out.  A similar meeting last year stalled after the countries couldn’t come to terms.   

“We are increasingly concerned that efforts to develop regional conservation plans are not keeping pace with the depletion of our seas and the collapsing populations of shortfin makos in the North Atlantic,” said Alejandra Goyenechea, senior international counsel at Defenders of Wildlife. “Half-measured or overly-generalized proposals which don’t follow the established science aren’t enough given the precarious situation of these sharks. Once again, the United States has put such a plan on the table with its pitch to ICCAT. The European Union’s is arguably worse ‒ it openly greenlights overfishing for another two years.”  

Scientists from the commission’s standing committee on research and statistics warn that decades worth of long-line fishing for meat and fins and for sport has depleted the majority of juvenile shortfin mako sharks ‒ especially in the North Atlantic. This is of grave concern for the globally-listed endangered species, because shortfin makos don’t reach sexual maturity until a very late age (8 years for males and 19 years for females).  Thus, a proposal based on scientific recommendations must be adopted as soon as possible if there is to be any hope of saving the species.   

“A ban on the retention of shortfin makos in the North Atlantic is urgently needed to avoid a crisis,” said Goyenechea. “The U.S. proposal does not go far enough and does not follow the science. For example, the U.S. proposal allows exceptions for fishermen to kill any shortfin mako accidentally hooked and brought to the boat alive even though shortfin makos have a good survival probability. When you are talking about an endangered species circling the drain, how can that be justified?”   

Defenders joins the PADI AWARE Foundation, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, Ecology Action Centre, Humane Society International and Shark Project and others  in calling for a decision and a backing of the most scientifically sound proposal this year.  

“We strongly urge the United States to join the growing coalition of countries which includes Senegal, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom and others that support the adoption of the Canadian proposal,” said Goyenechea. “It accounts for the science, it is based on expert advice, and it is the best tool on the table right now to prevent the tragic loss of the North Atlantic shortfin mako.”  

A proposed measure needs to be supported by consensus during this meeting to then move on in the planning stages towards any potential adoption by November of this year. 

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

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Hawk Hammer
Communications Specialist
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Alejandra Goyenechea
Senior International Counsel


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