Intersessional Meeting once again failed to agree on a retention ban for shortfin mako sharks but still claims to make progress

11. July, 2021

Comment on ICCAT meeting for Makosharks

Intersessional Meeting once again failed to agree on a retention ban for shortfin mako sharks but still claims to make progress – We are unfortunately not seeing any progress has been achieved at all and hope for another meeting to resolve the open questions

Appreciating the commitment of all parties to rebuilt North Atlantic shortfin mako shark stock by 2070 and the Commission Chair’s proposal as a basis for those discussions.

Supporting the Chair’s intent “to avoid repeating the scenario faced last year“ while effective conservation measures are long time overdue and must not be postponed again. But unfortunately this has once again not been achieved during this Intersessional meeting, as the key questions were not addressed openly and no agreement has been reached on any conservation measures so far at all. Although the supporting parties of PA4-09 and also Japan, Norway and Algeria tried repeatedly to raise the need for answering those key questions.

This Interesessional Meting has once again delayed an agreement to the end of the year for a joint approach to save this endangered species. There is a high likelihood now that no agreement will be achieved again this year to implement effective conservation measures for this imperilled stock, if the parties do not meet and continue discussions prior to the Commission Meeting in November. During such a meeting the essential open questions have to be tabled and answered prior to continuing any discussions about detailed wordings in the proposal.

Calling therefore to all parties to schedule another meeting as soon as possible and not later than September to finalise those discussions

Alarmed that 2020 catch data show overfishing continues and landings by Spain and Portugal have even increased compared to 2019 catches, with ZERO live release data reported by the EU. This reflects that the fleet is either not complying with Rec 19-06 to release all makos that are alive when brought along the boat OR does not report discards, which is also not in compliance with Rec 19-06! We are further alarmed that not all CPCs have reported catches for 2019 so far, especially Morocco that has had significant catches in 2019 has only announced that those have decreased in 2020 but not reported figures publicly so far!

Alarmed that EU continues to reiterate its statement of “discarding dead fish is not helping conservation”, which bares any scientific basis and is contradicted by the demonstrated effectiveness of existing retention bans for other species. ICCAT and CPCs have successfully implemented such bans for other shark species in the past.

Deeply worried that EU is ignoring all of this, ignores the science and even challenges the scientific findings and calculations provided by the SCRS but keeps repeating arguments made by the fishing industry instead.

Disappointed that EU stalls progress for an agreement by proposing overly complex measures, which will be impossible to implement and enforce on the water like the proposed limit of two specimens being kept per trip when parties couldn’t even agree on an increase of observer coverage to 20% and definition of a comprehensive electronic monitoring system has been postponed to 2022 in a Panel 1 Intersessional Meeting earlier this month.

Puzzled by the USA’s proposal, which appears to be genuinely aiming to start stock rebuilding and scientifically correct calling for consideration of total mortality (thereby including also post release mortality of live discards) but continues to ignore the fact that sexually mature animals (above the proposed size limit) are indeed key to starting stock rebuilding now and therefore must not be retained – neither dead nor alive – neither by commercial nor recreational fisheries!

Highlighting that Norway has stated repeatedly that only a retention ban provides a scientific basis for stock rebuilding by 2070 and NOAA itself proposes for all Atlantic shark stocks “As described in the 1999 FMP, when addressing management measures for overfished Atlantic shark stocks, NOAA Fisheries’ general objective is to rebuild the stock within the rebuilding period with a 70-percent probability.” in its DRAFT Amendment 14 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan Unfortunately the US has so far ignored its own Management Plan during the discussions at ICCAT as it insists on retaining mature sharks for its recreational game fishing even when caught alive and continues calling for a TAC (total allowable catch) of 500 t which provides only a 52% probability for stock rebuilding by 2070.

Re-emphasizing that continuing to enable economic incentives from landing dead mako sharks prevents the best efforts being applied to avoid bycatch and to minimize post release mortality. The Canadian catch figures clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of a retention ban (which it had introduced for its fleet in 2020) as apparent from the 2020 increase in live releases, which is a significant improvement over 2019 numbers!

Therefore, we are urgently calling for all ICCAT Parties to finally agree as part of an additional Intersessional Meeting prior to the Commission Meeting on what is scientifically justified, long overdue, and essential:

  • to agree on a probability of 70% for rebuilding of the North Atlantic stock by 2070 as a scientifically sound probaility for this highly vulnerable shark species!
  • to agree to reduce total mortality of shortfin mako shark in the North Atlantic to a level of << 300t as required for a probability of 70%; Note, that this must include all sources of mortality including an estimated percentage for post release mortality of live release, e.g. 30-40%).
  • to agree that ICCAT must apply a precautionary approach also for the South Atlantic stock, which is at risk to be in a similar state as the stock in the North in the near future if measures are further delayed.

We continue to urge all CPCs at ICCAT to:

  • Introduce an immediate retention ban for shortfin mako in the North Atlantic
  • Introduce a TAC of not more than 2001 t for shortfin mako in the South Atlantic for 2022
  • Commit to further research and implementation of improved live release and bycatch avoidance strategies – but this should in no incidence delay the decision to immediately implement the full retention ban with no exemptions in the North!
  • Introduce a comprehensive Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) and increase human observer coverage to at least 20%
  • Conduct new stock assessments for shortfin mako sharks in the North and the South Atlantic at the latest by 2024

Furthermore, highlighting that SCRS scientific advice – for a retention ban in the North and a TAC in the South – has been clear since 2017, with growing support:

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