Conservation Groups Call for Prohibition on Landing
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, August 24, 2017
[KJIPUKTUK(HALIFAX)] – The future is not so bright for the shortfin mako, one of Atlantic Canada’s sharks. According to new a science assessment released this week, contrary to what was previously thought, the shark’s population has severely declined and it is currently being overfished. If fishing continues at this rate, the shortfin mako will become even more imperiled. This finding would spell trouble for any species, however for sharks like the shortfin mako that are particularly slow to reproduce and replenish their populations, the news is especially concerning. The science assessment indicates that catches of North Atlantic shortfin mako would need to be reduced by 72-79% just to keep the population from decreasing further. Catches need to be cut to zero to have even a 50% chance of rebuilding the population within twenty years.
“We’ll be looking to Canada to lead the way at upcoming international fishery negotiations and call for a halt to landing shortfin mako based on this new science information,” explains Shannon Arnold, Marine Policy Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre. “Canada and other countries have ignored calls to manage these sharks with an enforced, precautionary limit on catch for years and now the species is in serious trouble.”
Landings for shortfin mako shark in Atlantic Canada have increased in recent years, up to 85 metric tonnes in 2016. These sharks are caught incidentally in the pelagic longline swordfish and fixed gear groundfish fisheries and there appears to be continued demand in the market for their meat. There are many more shortfin mako caught at sea and released with estimates of upwards of 30% of these dying after they are let go. The Canadian government claims to have a 100 tonne limit, however, it is not based on scientific advice and no action is triggered if the limit is exceeded.
The recent stock assessment was conducted by scientists at a meeting of the international fisheries management body known as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Canada, along with the 50 other member governments of ICCAT, will make management decisions at the negotiations in November on the conservation of this vulnerable shark. The Ecology Action Centre, a Halifax-based environmental charity, has been attending ICCAT meetings since 2010, and is the only Canadian civil society organization to do so.
“ICCAT members, including Canada are going to have take immediate and decisive action to minimize fishing pressure on shortfin makos if we want to give the population a fighting chance,” explains Katie Schleit, Senior Marine Campaign Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, “We will be encouraging Canadian citizens to send a strong message to our government to follow national commitments to science based decision-making and lead conservation efforts by example on the international stage. “
The Ecology Action Centre has partnered with Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, and Project AWARE to form the Shark League for the Atlantic and Mediterranean, a coalition focused on the responsible regional conservation of sharks and rays.
Shortfin mako sharks are not uncommon in Atlantic Canada’s waters and belong to the same family as the great white sharks that have been recently making news in Nova Scotia. The shortfin mako is the world’s fastest swimming shark and they are also known for making acrobatic leaps out of the water when hooked on a fishing line. Shortfin makos have been assessed as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Since 2011, out of the all ICCAT countries, Canada ranks 6th in the number of shortfin mako caught.
A new academic study, released early this month and incorporated into the ICCAT assessment, showed that the fishing mortality of shortfin mako in the Northwest Atlantic is higher than previously estimated.
The ICCAT assessment of shortfin mako looked at data starting all the way back in the 1950s up until 2015 and used updated methods and models to come to the conclusion that the North Atlantic population of shortfin mako had both been overfished and is still experiencing overfishing. The previous stock assessment was conducted in 2012.
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