23. August 2019 Christine Gstöttner

Threatened mako sharks – protection by CITES listing desperately needed

(c) Heinz Toperczer

In the next few days, the Conference of the Washington Convention in Geneva decides, among other things on new additions to the annexes to the Convention and thus on a strong global regulation of trade for the species that have been included. Among the sharks, the short-finned mako and the much rarer, very similar long-finned mako are on the list of candidates. The mako Sharks are about to be added to Appendix II of the convention.

Appendix I lists the most endangered species, which are at imminent risk of extinction and whose trade is completely banned. Appendix II deals with species that are not neccessarily threatened with extinction but whose trade needs to be controlled. Twelve shark species are currently listed in Annex II and no shark species has yet been included in Annex I. The existing protected sharks include prominent species such as the Great White Shark, the Whale Shark and the Hammerhead Shark species.

(c): F. Kremer-Obrock

Due to its body shape, the mako shark acts like a real muscleman. The better known short-finned macos can be found worldwide in warmer waters. They both feed on blue fish, mackerel, swordfish, tuna and cephalopods. But dolphins, turtles and seabirds are also on the menu in case of doubt. With a maximum speed of 80 km/h, it is one of the fastest swimming fish in the world.
Mako Sharks do not have to fear any natural enemy in the ocean. Nevertheless, they are threatened with extinction. The IUCN Red List lists both species as “threatened”. The reason is, as so often, mankind. Many species of mako sharks hunted for their fins and meat. Especially in the USA they are additionally targeted by anglers, because the animals are big and fast and offer a challenge to the angler. For this special kick, the animals die for questionable winning photos at competitions. But even if the hook is loosened at the end of the hunt, up to a third of the animals die as a result.
In addition, the mako shark is often applied as a by-catch of fishing, or targeted, for example with longlines fished. In Asian regions, the fish is popular because of its meat.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) considers the stocks of mako shark to be overfished. No wonder: in the North Atlantic, 3,300 tons and about 130,000 sharks are caught annually. ICCAT therefore demanded a maximum limit of 500 tonnes. Other studies also estimate this quota to be too high for the polluted stocks of mako sharks to be able to regenerate.

It is therefore high time that the two species of mako shark are given additional protection. We are working to ensure that the first step is taken in Geneva in August and that both species are included in Appendix II of the CITES list. But it’s time to get more shark species involved: In total, the IUCN Red List lists 25 species as Critically Endangered and 43 species, including the two mako shark species, as Endangered. This means for the CITES agreements: Other species must follow urgently to prevent extinction on the world’s oceans.

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