Spanish and Portuguese fishing vessels in particular, are killing more sharks than swordfish in the Atlantic. Often targeted to benefit from finning, despite an EU ban. According to Greenpeace, four times as many sharks as swordfish were caught in the North Atlantic in 2017 based on weight. The sharks are mainly killed because of their fins. EU member states Spain and Portugal continue to be among the largest shark fin exporters in the world.
Among the sharks killed are also many makos. This March they were upgraded from “endangered” to “severely endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Even if their catch were to fall to illusory zero, scientists say there is only a 54% chance that the population will recover by 2040. In 2017, up to 25,000 endangered mako species were “by-catch” in Atlantic swordfish fisheries.
According to Lukas Meus, marine expert at Greenpeace Austria, “this unscrupulous business in the North Atlantic is only possible because nobody controls industrial fishing. Protective measures on paper have failed completely to date”. This applies above all to ICCAT, which puts its economic profit before marine protection. So far, there are no catch restrictions for sharks caught in the North Atlantic.
Possibly the last hope: This year, the Conference of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora will decide whether the short-finned and long-finned macos will be listed on so-called “Appendix II”, thus considerably restricting international trade in them. So far, twelve shark species have been protected by CITES, including the great white shark, the whale shark and the basking shark. The application to list the mako shark on CITES Appendix II was submitted by a total of 27 individual countries plus the European Union and would therefore be an extremely important success for the conservation of these animals.
Mako sharks are so endangered because they can only slowly compensate for losses in the population. As a rule, Makos only become sexually mature at the age of 18 to 21, only have offspring every three years and are pregnant for up to 18 months.