Mako Sharks Finally Receive Some Of The Protection They Deserve

After years of decline, and an especially dramatic one in recent years due to uncontrolled demand for shark fin soup, Mako sharks are finally being protected by being placed on the vulnerable list of species that regulates the trade of endangered species.

Shark populations across the board have been dropping around the world as shark fin soup, which has zero nutritional value, becomes more in demand, resulting in sharks being finned alive and left to die in the ocean by fisherman.

Mako sharks, the fastest sharks on Earth, are especially imperiled because females do not reach breeding maturity until the age of 18, which makes maintaining population numbers incredibly difficult.

Sharks are crucial for ocean health as they remove dead and dying animals and help regulate the populations of other species that would be destructive if left uncontrolled.

According to Oceana:

As predators, they shift their prey’s spatial habitat, which alters the feeding strategy and diets of other species. Through the spatial controls and abundance, sharks indirectly maintain the seagrass and corals reef habitats. The loss of sharks has led to the decline in coral reefs, seagrass beds and the loss of commercial fisheries.

Clearly, our own food supply relies on the health of shark populations, and that’s why governments overwhelmingly voted to include Mako sharks and other shark species on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in order to regulate the international trade of them.

“The CITES party governments clearly sought to strengthen efforts to prevent the extinction of mako, guitarfish and wedgefish sharks and rays,” Wildlife Conservation Society associate director for sharks Luke Warwick told The Guardian. “Sharks and rays are among the most threatened species on our planet and momentum is clearly building to ensure that these species – which have been around for 400 million years – continue to be around for future generations.”

Countries engaging in the shark fin trade will now be forced to demonstrate that fishing for them won’t harm their survival.

Shark Advocates International president Sonja Fordham also hailed the move.

“These decisions offer the promise of a brighter future for these highly threatened sharks and ray species, as international trade has been a major factor in the depletion of their slow-growing populations,” she said. “[The] CITES listing can help end unsustainable use of makos, wedgefishes, and giant guitarfishes by prompting improved trade data and much-needed limits on exploitation while complementing other conservation commitments.”

What’s more, the European Union sponsored the proposal, which means leading Mako shark fishing nation Spain will have to curb their fishing strategy.

“Considering that Spain leads the world in mako shark landings, we’re encouraged that the European Union co-sponsored the proposal to list makos under CITES,” Shark Trust’s Ali Hood said before calling for an outright ban to protect them further.

“We urge the EU to underscore this commitment through proposals to immediately ban North Atlantic shortfin mako retention and establish concrete catch limits to ensure mako landings from all other oceans are sustainable,” she continued. “As virtually all fishing countries are CITES parties, we’ll be watching for support for such mako limits at regional fisheries bodies around the world, starting with ICCAT in November.”

It’s a major step in the right direction that gives hope that sharks around the world can be saved from certain extinction. But nations are going to have to make a concerted effort, and that means banning the sale of shark fins and taking shark fin soup off the menu until long after the species has recovered.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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